Bill Hammond attended the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts between 1966 and 1968. After graduation, he worked as a jewellery designer and made wooden toys, before returning to his art practice in 1981. Hammond is notoriously reticent to speak about his work, but his paintings themselves are rich in symbolic and cultural references. The titles of his works, many of which are quotations from rock music, speak eloquently of how he wishes to position his practice: as a commentary on the popular culture and historical identity of New Zealand and New Zealanders. Hammond’s early paintings sample from American alternative comix, Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblocks and punk rock culture.
After his visit to the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands in 1989, Hammond began to paint his instantly recognisable “birdland” works: lyrical, enigmatic depictions of humanoid figures with the heads of New Zealand native birds, stalking through obscure, seemingly mythic landscapes. His work has been exhibited extensively both in New Zealand and overseas, including at the International Expo in Seville, Spain, at the Sydney Biennale, and at the Asia Society Museum in New York.