The Liquid Dossier. Nick Austin 16 February – 13 April 2013

Monday, February 18th, 2013 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Bringing together a disparate collection of paintings and sculptures and combinations thereof, The Liquid Dossier showcases works that Nick Austin created during his 12 months as the recipient of the 2012 Frances Hodgkins Fellowship at the University of Otago.

Previous works by Austin referenced socks, fish aquariums and spider-webs and were inspired by formal structures derived from concrete poetry, ideograms, puns and crosswords. In The Liquid Dossier Austin adds the concept of the McGuffin, an object of desire that drives a narrative plot but which is ultimately unimportant to its resolution, to his art making tool box. The McGuffin in this exhibition is both the dossier of the exhibition’s title and something ineffable in each of the show’s works.

Bearing a keen interest in the tactility of language and the often-strange relationship between material and object, The Liquid Dossier also dwells on the Hocken’s function as a repository of papers and pictures. In the past year Austin’s inquiry has broadened to encompass the institutional structures of the library, archive and gallery.

Simultaneously concrete and elusive, Austin’s work is always open-ended and inconclusive. As with the contents of a dossier, the works in this exhibition are loosely bound to each other in a manner that draws our attention to overlooked or absent items. As a result his works trigger fluid, accidental associations and digressive meanings rather than convey any fixed or predetermined ideas. The disjunctive space between the titles of Austin’s individual works and what is visible in them delays the inference of meaning and creates a distance that enables poetic qualities to develop.  Austin likens his work to a poetry collection that dramatises the mysteries of the creative process.

Nick Austin, Homesick, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 1450 x 1850mm. Image reproduced courtesy of the artist and Hopkinson Cundy, Auckland.

Blog post prepared by Natalie Poland, Curator of Pictorial Collections

The good ship Maheno, an ANZAC hero

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 | Anna Blackman | 4 Comments

This wonderful image is a photograph of the ship Maheno, which served at Gallipoli as well as elsewhere in the Mediterranean during the First World War.  Along with sister hospital ship Marama, it transported over 47,000 wounded soldiers to safety. For the winter months of 2012 the Hocken Library is using this image to promote the current exhibition – Ship Shape – an exhibition based on the idea of “portraits” of ships.
Maheno in her building berth, 1905, Cameron Family Papers MS-1046/422
Maheno was built by William Denny and Brothers at Dumbarton, Scotland but Dunedin was its home.   Joining the Union Steam Ship Company’s fleet in 1905, the Maheno was the first turbine-powered ship to work the Trans-Tasman route.  The vessel had a strong link with the University of Otago as well since the Ministry of Defence offered the institution surplus money from the Hospital Ships’ Fund to build a hall for the military training of medical students in 1919.  Maheno and Marama Hall (as it was originally called) was completed in 1923 and is now occupied by the Department of Music.  A roll of honour in the foyer lists medical staff who served on the ships.
Maheno’s elegant profile was much admired, as were its comfortable and beautiful interiors. Original photographs of the ship from the Hocken Archives Collection are currently on show as part of the exhibition:
For more information about the exhibition, follow this link Ship Shape
Blog post prepared by Assistant Curator of Photographs, Anna Petersen, with David Murray, Acting Arrangement and Description Archivist.

The Hocken will take the Kushana Bush exhibition on a national tour

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Kushana Bush, Pieta (detail), 2011, gouache and pencil on paper

In an unprecedented move, the University of Otago’s Hocken Library will take works by 2012 Frances Hodgkins Fellow Kushana Bush on a national tour that will include the Pah Homestead TSB Wallace Arts Centre in Auckland. The Exhibition,All Things to All Men: Kushana Bush continues at the Hocken Gallery until 14 April before opening at the Pah Homestead TSB Wallace Arts Centre, Auckland, on 23 April.

The exhibition, Bush’s first solo (single-artist) exhibition at a public gallery, comprises thirty-one delicate gouaches, all created last year during her tenure as the 2011 Frances Hodgkins Fellow at the University of Otago. This is an amazing feat considering the very time consuming method of applying gouache requires a high degree of precision.

Drawing on the passage in the Bible – To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some (1 Corinthians 9:22) –  the title of the exhibition puts forward a utopian notion that art can service the needs of everyone who views it. Often captured in deliberately awkward or sexually intimate poses, her ordinary folk reveal a wealth of human sensibilities and spiritualties. These intricate gouaches suggest proximity between everyday life and the spiritual realm, a feature she shares with the British artist Stanley Spencer, whose work she admires. The everyday activities that Bush’s figures perform invariably take on a ritual-like aspect.

Inhabited by a multi-cultural cast of actors, Bush’s cosmopolitan images are rich mosaics of cultural difference that unsettle Eurocentric art histories. Her satirical and often disarmingly intimate gouaches bring together constituent elements from all over the world. Many portray domestic scenes or characters engaged in daily activities including bathing, gardening and worshiping.

Bush paints exclusively with gouache (pronounced ‘gwash’), a medium first used in the 13th century in illuminated manuscripts and Persian miniature art. It is a water-based paint which has either an extremely high level of pigmentation or a chalk-like substance suspended in it. Gouache has an opaque character and, depending on the colour used, can appear very vibrant.

Visit Channel 9 online and get a virtual tour of the exhibition:

Read the ODT feature by Charmian Smith online:

Blog post prepared by Natalie Poland, Curator of Pictorical Collections

‘Although my country is against you […] I still remain the same to you as before’. Words of gratitude and uncertainty: Thai students’ wartime communications in New Zealand

Monday, December 5th, 2011 | Anna Blackman | 2 Comments

‘I am going to be shifted from Somes Island in a few weeks. I don’t like to go away from the old place. I enjoy the sea and watching ships steaming pass [sic] the island. Although it is rather windy and unhealthy, its scenery soothes our weary hearts to some extent.’

(excerpt from a letter by Bira Kalayasiri to Mr Gerald Francis Shiel, dated 19 December 1942)

So wrote Bira Kalayasiri, a Thai national, to his New Zealand guardian Gerald Shiel from the Somes Island Internment Camp in Wellington Harbour. This letter is the final item of correspondence we have between the two. Within a year, Kalayasiri would be dead, one of the victims of an undisclosed accident that took place during his forced repatriation to Thailand in 1943.

Letter to the Shiels from the internment camp

Kalayasiri and two of his compatriots, Aun Apibalsree and Yuwan Saraniyama, arrived in Dunedin to start study at the Otago School of Mines late in 1940. The trio appear to have received financial support from the Thai government and the firm Kampong Toh Tin Ltd. Patrick Shiel, the Singapore-based brother of Gerald, was connected with this company, and asked his Dunedin brother to take an interest in the students. A close association between Gerald, his wife Ina, and the Thai students developed; to the extent that the students suggested Gerald assume the role of their New Zealand guardian.

The folder of correspondence mostly holds letters written by Kalayasiri, Apibalsree and Saraniyama to Mr or Mrs Shiel (referred to by them as ‘Ma’) from their time spent carrying out work experience for their studies at the Wallsend Mine, near Greymouth, through to their internment at Somes Island. Although Kalayasiri tends to voice their experiences and predicament most vividly, all three initially express gratitude and affection to the Shiels for their goodness in Dunedin, and describe some of their working conditions and impressions of their workmates. As time progresses, the trio’s letters refer increasingly to the war underway and how they feel about it, and eventually move into expressions of frustration, conflicted emotion, and despair.

‘[…] although my country is against you but I still remain the same to you as before. Your generosity and kindness towards me are still impressing in my heart. I will never forget until the end of my life. So please consider me individually. What happens in my country should not be mixed.’
(excerpt from a letter to ‘Ma’ Shiel from Kalayasiri, December 1941)

‘Regarding my home in Thailand, I wonder whether I lost my father and mother or not. They stay in the fighting zone. I have lost my country. I do not know what will happen in future. I have lost my future. I have lost everything. Only thing I have now is only my poor humble soul waiting for the time when death calls upon me. I have to struggle for my life to see the future misery. I think what will happen in future will be worse than it is now. When I think of this I want to do something which will end my life.
I want to join the army here, but I do not expect to get it because I am an alien.’
(excerpts from a letter from Kalayasiri to Mr Shiel, December 1941)
Letter to ‘Ma’ in Dunedin from Greymouth

Each of the group expresses a desire to join the New Zealand Army early on, and Saraniyama in particular made a concerted effort to enlist with the allied forces. All endeavours to sign up were futile, due to their status as enemy aliens. Their frustrations were amplified in their attempts to establish contact with groups that may have been able to provide them with advice or assistance, such as the recently established Free Thai Movement. Any ventures into overseas communication were thwarted by misinformation, lack of reply, and eventually censorship.

Few of the conditions of their internment are revealed, no doubt partially due to the censorship of letters written by those held in the camp. All three express boredom and frustration with their situation, but are able to continue with their studies, and financial support from the Thai government still reaches them, albeit with increasing delays. It is unclear exactly when in 1942 their internment commenced, or the point in 1943 that their fateful repatriation took place.

The Shiels, too, must have been aggravated with the situation the trio faced, and equally exasperated by the limited official information they eventually received after the youths lost their lives. A letter from the Minister of Defence to Mr Shiel states that ‘an accident occurred while in transit, as a result of which they died,’ and that ‘it is not desired that publicity be given to this matter and it would therefore be appreciated if you would treat this information as confidential.’ Compounding this tragedy, Gerald Shiel’s brother Patrick went missing, allegedly having met his death in an accident while fleeing Singapore in 1942; but the family had still not received any confirmation of his death by 1945.
Official notification of the trio’s deaths

Information regarding the internment and death of the Thai trio sits in Ministry of Defence files held at Archives New Zealand. The files are restricted to preserve the personal privacy of those concerned, however, researcher may make application to the Chief Archivist for permission to view the files.

Kari Wilson-Allan

Assistant Archivist
Sources: AG-870/015 Correspondence relating to and with Bira Kalayasiri, Aun Apibalsree, and Yuwan Saraniyama and AG-870/016 Correspondence relating to the disappearance of Patrick Ormond Shiel, (Singapore 1945)

1941 School of Mines photo, Bira, Aun and Yuwan are in the back rows

Ruck It! How Otago Shaped Rugby History

Thursday, September 8th, 2011 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

What do Sir Peter Buck, Chris Laidlaw, Vic Cavanagh and Greg McGee have in common? Yes – rubgy for one but you’ll have to visit the Hocken Library find out the full answer!

In collaboration with Hidden Dunedin, and the University’s Design Studies Department the Hocken has put on a display that examines the contributions made by Otago people to the development of rugby by showcasing a sample of this rich history. Drawn from the Hocken’s own collections, the show features rugby memorabilia, early rugby publications, official team photographs and personal scrapbooks. A version of the display will also be installed from 17 September in The Link next to the Central Library of the University.

Highlights of the display at the Hocken include:
Tom Ellison’s The Art of Rugby Football (1902). Ellison is known as one of the game’s great innovators and was introduced to rugby by his Taiaroa cousins at Otakou around 1881. He was a prominent member of the New Zealand Native Football Team, which toured Great Britain and Australia in 1888 and captained the 1893 New Zealand team on their tour of Australia. It was his suggestion that the New Zealand team should adopt Native team uniform of the black jerseys with a silver ferns. The 2-3-2 scrum formation that he developed for his Poneke club team in Wellington became the dominant style of All Black play until the 1930s.
Billy Stead had an enduring influence on Maori and All Black rugby. Stead was a member of the first official New Zealand tour of Britain and France in 1905-06. He was the team’s vice-captain and chief tactician. He wrote regular columns for the Southland Times and at the end of the tour, combined with captain David Gallaher to write one of the earliest rugby classics, The Complete Rugby Footballer. He played 32 games for the All Blacks, 12 as captain, he was part of the first Maori team and was later a referee, coach and manager. On display are a photo of the team, victory telegrams, and a copy of his book.
Ned Parata, from Puketeraki, Karitane, is widely regarded as the father of Maori rugby. The parallel development of Māori rugby was one of the defining characteristics of New Zealand rugby. Wiremu Teihoka (Ned) Parata organised the first Māori team in 1910 and persuaded Billy Stead to come out of retirement to play for it. Parata, who underwrote the cost of touring from the profits of his motor car business, continued to organise Māori rugby for the next 20 years, climaxing in the 40-match tour of Europe and Canada over the summer of 1926-27. An visual display features a selection of images from his scrapbook; it contains photographs, letters and newspaper clippings relating to the tour.
J W Stewart’s album features the celebrated Maori rugby tour of France, Britain and Canada led by Ned Parata and contains photographs, newspaper clippings and ephemera relating to the New Zealand Maori rugby tour of Great Britain, France and Canada, 1926-1927. It also has photographs of Palmerston, North Otago and South Island Maori teams. J. Stewart appears in many of these photographs and has been attributed as the creator of the album.

Still wondering the answer to the question at the start of this post? A hint is that the display contains a selection of team photos from the Otago University Rugby Football teams over the years.

To hear Dunedin sports historian Ron Palenski on Otago and the ruck listen to this interview with Jim Moira.

To see some of the display content and hear yours truely on my favourite items watch this clip from Channel 9.

The exhibition team comprised Dr. Noel Waite, Senior Lecturer; Michael Findlay, Professional Practice Fellow; Ryan Gallagher and Jon Thom, students, all of the Department of Applied Sciences and Sharon Dell, Hocken Librarian, working with Mark Sharma, Studio 3, Dunedin and Ron Palenski, external advisor, NZ Sports Hall of Fame, Dunedin.

‘Homing in’ on Poet Laureate Cilla McQueen’s literary archive

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 | Anna Blackman | No Comments


Cilla McQueen is one of New Zealand’s major and much lauded poets. Her first volume of poetry, ‘Homing In’, was published in 1982 and since this time she has published eleven volumes of poetry, several of them award winners. Themes including landscape, loss, homeland, displacement and colonisation infuse her evocative writing.

In 2009 she was appointed Poet Laureate for 2009-2011 and in 2010 her most recent volume of poetry ‘The Radio Room’ was published.
McQueen has held the University of Otago’s Burns Fellowship for 1985 and 1986, a Fulbright Visiting Writers’ Fellowship to Stanford University in 1985 and a Goethe Institut Scholarship to Berlin, in 1991 she was awarded the QEII Arts Council Scholarship in Letters. She has also won the New Zealand Book Award three times. McQueen received an honorary doctorate in literature from the University of Otago in 2009. In 2012 she received a Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement (Poetry).
McQueen is also an accomplished and popular performer of her poetry.
MS-2400/058, MS-3247/220, MS-3247/275

McQueen’s archives, held at the Hocken Collections, contain a rich variety of papers including manuscript poetry and plays, correspondence, sound recordings and photographs

Blog post prepared by Debbie Gale, Arrangement and Description Archivist

The Frances Hodgkins Fellowship

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

The 2010 recipient of the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship is Joanna Langford, who moved to Dunedin from Wellington last month to start the year-long Fellowship.

If you are a visual artist interested in applying for the 2011 Frances Hodgkins Fellowship you can download an application form or find further information on the University of Otago website. Just put ‘Frances Hodgkins Fellowship’ in the search bar. Applications close 1 June 2010.

Eddie Clemens: Delusional Architecture exhibition at Hocken Gallery

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Have you seen our current exhibition yet?

Eddie Clemens: Delusional Architecture is on display until 24 April at the Hocken Gallery. Eddie Clemens was the 2009 University of Otago Frances Hodgkins Fellow. His choice of title for this exhibition, a phrase taken from the science-fiction movie Terminator II (1991), hints at his recent examination of how physical surroundings affect human behavior. This concern rests alongside his long-held fascination in the vagaries of consumerism. His witty sculptures flirt with the science fiction genre and technology by employing electronic circuits, LEDs, cool fluorescent tubes and hidden miniature fans. Applied to sculpture, these special effects are fun to look at while they also draw our attention to our increasing use of screen-based entertainment, and, our increasing desire for daily escapism. Clemens’s art points to a commonality between architectural structures, shopping and computer technology – they all have the ability to hold us emotionally captive. One of my favourite works is the two brooms with bristles made from fibre optic threads that glow in a changing rainbow assortment of colours.
Come and see the show and let us know what you think.

Welcome to the 2010 University of Otago Fellows

Friday, March 12th, 2010 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Last night (11 March 2010) about 80 members of the wider University community welcomed the five 2010 fellows in the Hocken foyer. The fellows are Michele Powles (Robert Burns Fellow), Chris Adams (Mozart Fellow), Joanna Langford (Frances Hodgkins Fellow), Suzanne Cowan (Caroline Plummer Fellow in Community Dance) and Karen Trebilcock (University of Otago College of Education Writer in Residence).

After short speeches visitors were invited to view our current exhibition Eddie Clemens : Delusional Architecture. Eddie was the 2009 Frances Hodgkins Fellow.