Bob Kerr: Volcanoes of Tāmaki Makaurau

  • 15 November 2021

28 November – 4 December 2021
Open day: Sunday 28 November, 11am – 4pm

28 Ethel St, Morningside, Tāmaki Makaurau

Tuesday – Friday 11am – 5pm
Saturday & Sunday 11am – 4pm

Starting in the Domain
The quickest way to get to art school was to walk across the Auckland Domain. I would leave our student flat in Parnell and walk past the front entrance of the Auckland War Memorial Museum, cross the sports fields, past the little hill covered in English oak trees in the centre of the sports fields, past the wintergardens and the tea kiosk then down the path through the trees that followed the creek draining the duckpond. I’d pop out of the bush onto Stanley Street and pick my way through the earth moving machinery. It was 1973. The motorway was being pushed down Grafton Gully into the city.

At the Art school next to Grafton Gully I’d often find myself in the library flicking through art books. Should I push the paint around like Oscar Kokoschka? Should I spread the paint out like David Hockney’s bright Californian swimming pools. Should I splash the paint about the way Ivon Hitchen’s did with his rapid blocks of colour. His Sussex mill ponds did look a bit like the Domain duckpond.

Sometimes on my way home I’d be carrying the sketchpad so I‘d draw. My pictures of the duckpond came nowhere near Ivon Hitchen’s splashes of colour, but I liked the way the trees cast shadows across the grass. I liked the way the afternoon sun lit up the front of the museum. I liked the way it looked like a giant stranded spaceship and I liked the formal English oak trees growing on the strange little central hill.

Recently I took the walk again. This time I was better informed. I had read Bruce Hayward’s Volcanoes of Auckland - A Field Guide and Lucy Mackintosh’s Shifting Grounds: Deep histories of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. Two books that led me from the Domain to start exploring the rest of Auckland’s volcanoes.  

The vast flat lawn of the Domain was once a lava lake of an ancient volcano that erupted over 100,000 years ago. It slowly filled to become a wetland which was then drained and flattened to form today's sports fields and cricket pitches. The museum sits on Pukekawa, the tuff ring, the circular hill of ash surrounding the explosion crater and the small hill in the centre with the oak trees was the volcano’s central scoria cone. At the top of this cone, Pukekaroro, pushing up through the oak trees, is a tōtara tree surrounded by a carved palisade. The tōtara was planted in 1940 by Te Puea Herangi to commemorate the centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and to commemorate her grandfather Te Wherowhero who, at the height of the Musket Wars, met here to make peace with the northern tribes. The War Memorial Museum was not the only war memorial in the Domain.

Bob Kerr's creative practice combines his two artistic endeavours: painting and writing. Through the eyes and voices of scientists, conscientious objectors, and war veterans, Bob tells the story of New Zealand's history, people, and the landscape. Based in Wellington, Bob has been widely exhibited, his paintings often look at our contested history.

Other works by Bob Kerr.

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