Kura Gallery Maori Art Design BNZ Matariki Celebration canvas

Black and Red
Oil on Canvas, 1971
NFS – from the BNZ Collection

Gordon Walters is well known for blending Maori and European art. Growing up in Wellington, Walters first encountered Maori art at the Dominion Museum as a child, and throughout his life he was a passionate and respectful student of indigenous art forms.

During the 1950s he experimented widely with Maori and Pacific imagery before settling on a koru motif; he painted and drew the koru for nearly two decades. Walters combined the koru — traditionally a symbol for ‘new life’ — with European abstract art, producing a stylised & severely geometric image.

Some have criticised Walters for appropriating the koru without reference to its cultural heritage, while others see his work as an attempt to blend Maori and European art traditions.