(1931 – 2013), New Zealand

Ralph Hotere Biography

Born at the remote settlement of Mitimiti, on the west coast of Northland, New Zealand, Ralph Hotere was of Maori descent, and Te Aupouri iwi. He went to study at Auckland Teachers College and from 1952 to 1961 was employed as a school arts advisor in Northland and Auckland. Upon receiving the New Zealand Art Societies Fellowship in 1961 Hotere travelled to London and studied at the Central School of Art.

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In London Hotere was exposed to international modern art and in particular the work of Ad Reinhardt, Barnett Newman and Antonio Tapies. Hotere also travelled to Europe and whilst there created works which not only revealed some of these influences, but also the development of his own distinctive style. This is evident in the Sangro and Vence series works from the early 1960s. 

Four years after his return to New Zealand Hotere was awarded the prestigious Frances Hodgkins Fellowship at the University of Otago, Dunedin in the South Island of New Zealand. Hotere subsequently settled in Dunedin and made his home and studio there in nearby Careys Bay in 1972. In this environment Hotere created some his most enduring works which revealed the artist’s personal and political response, in formalist images informed by implicit and evocative narratives, to local environmental issues as well as global concerns. For example, the pure aestheticism of his art is evident in the minimalist, sound and tonal paintings from the Malady series in the early 1970s, whilst the Aramoana series (1982-1985) protested against a proposed aluminium smelter at Port Chalmers, by alluding to the presence of Māori ancestors and issues of spirituality, knowledge and the guardianship of the environment. In 1978 Hotere once again briefly lived in France and travelled in Europe revisiting some of the places in Italy and Spain that had inspired works 15 years earlier. He returned to live in Dunedin where he continued to create powerful works that addressed social and political issues such as the invasion of Iraq. 

Ralph Hotere was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Otago in 1994 and in 2003 received an Icon Award from the Arts Foundation of New Zealand. He was made a member of the Order of New Zealand in 2011. He died in Dunedin in 2013.

His work is represented in the collections of the Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa Tongarewa, in Wellington; the Dunedin Public Art Gallery; the Auckland Art Gallery and the Hocken Collections, Dunedin, as well as many private collections around the world. 

Ralph Hotere

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