Prior to these experiences, Hammond’s art was a realm of far more chaotic, Nietzschean landscapes. Hammond’s 80s works drink up the caffeinated energy of punk, rock ‘n’ roll, surrealism, graffiti, cartoons and other unexpected sources, all gleefully short-circuiting each other, rife with conspiratorial, antic paranoia and rebellion against suburban conservatism—reflecting the two sides of Christchurch’s coin in the 1970s and 80s. Writing about this period in Hammond’s career tends to lead to Proustian run-on sentences, in imitation of the rolling maul of his compositions.
These drawings originate in that period. For all the talk of the Garden City’s much-touted “Englishness,” this label contains within it gothic, punk and grunge sensibilities (music plays an important role in Hammond’s life and work), as well as a tolerance for eccentricity. Where the bird-men are contemplative and solemn, pre-1990 Hammond-Land seethed and fizzed with anarchy, paradox and protean mutability, striking sparks of startling originality off the alluvial gravel of Canterbury’s braided riverbeds.
Hammond’s hybrid creatures seem to be secret symbols, hinting that even when viewing the most everyday things, an attempt must be made to familiarise ourselves with other perspectives. He presents us with an entire iconography, the syntax of which seems just out of reach. Perhaps Hammond forces us to wrestle with these problems as a reflection of the struggle with identity that took place during the ’80s, as identity politics and economic uncertainty flourished in New Zealand, later than elsewhere.