Ralph Hotere

Untitled

1977
brolite-lacquer on board
620mm x 630mm

signed Hotere, dated 77 and inscribed For Alan Harris in brushpoint verso

Provenance

Private Collection, Dunedin.

Essay

Ralph Hotere’s brolite-lacquered, thinly-incised circle paintings say quite a lot about him as a formalist. As enigmatic as the artist himself, concrete readings have a habit ...

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Estimate $30,000 - $50,000
Achieved $28,140.00

Ralph Hotere

Port Chalmers Painting 77

1977

brolite-lacquer on board

signed Hotere, dated ‘77 and inscribed Port Chalmers and Group Exhibition 77 in brushpoint verso; inscribed After exhitbion please leave with Brooke/Gifford Gallery, clean surface with soft cloth, Title “Port Chalmers Painting 77” and Price $600 in graphite verso

1185mm x 810mm

Auction N˚3

Estimate $75,000 - $85,000

Achieved $67,000

Hotere’s Brolite Works

by Andrew Paul Wood

Ralph Hotere’s brolite-lacquered, thinly-incised circle paintings say quite a lot about him as a formalist. As enigmatic as the artist himself, concrete readings have a habit of skittering off those immaculate surfaces.

Circles have a long history in art as a symbol of eternity, the universe, and in delineating inside from outside. To the artist, the circle represents a demonstration of skill. In Zen Buddhism, the ensō is a circle drawn in a single calligraphic stroke, signalling that the body can create uninhibited by the mind. Vasari tells a similar story of Giotto impressing Pope Boniface VIII by drawing a perfect circle in a single motion. Perhaps there is also a suggestion of Renaissance tondo. Circles appear in several of Hotere’s Black paintings of the 1960s, in most of the Malady works of the early 1970s inspired by the Bill Manhire poem, and in the Godwit/Kūaka mural (Auckland Art Gallery, 1977), commissioned for Auckland International Airport. There are Jasper Johns’ encaustic targets, and Kenneth Noland’s circle paintings, but Hotere was going for something altogether more perfectly finished, as precise as the grooves in a vinyl LP, and as polished as a sports car.

The high gloss finish of these works reflects Hotere’s fascination with cars, their finishing and detailing. Brolite nitrocellulose lacquer made luxury cars shiny and gives their paintjobs such luxurious depth. The circles were created using the same line-roller used to paint racing stripes, but attached to a compass (one must imagine the process looking a little like William Blake’s fantasy portraits of Isaac Newton and Urizen riffing off medieval depictions of a patriarchal God creating the universe).