Isolated and windswept – embodying both the romance and peril of the deep Southern Ocean – the Auckland Islands have been a source of inspiration for many of New Zealand’s leading artists.
51º South, opening 10 December, provides a small sample of work by artists who have visited and responded to the natural and historical aspects of the Auckland Islands. The Auckland Islands are a group of sub Antarctic islands lying in the midst of the Southern Ocean, 465 kilometres south of Bluff and within the 51st southern latitude. The exhibition is primarily drawn from the Christchurch Art Gallery’s permanent collection, and accompanied by works from a private collection, the Southland Museum and Art Gallery Niho o Te Taniwha, and the McNamara Gallery in Wanganui. The show of nine works by six artists includes art from the 1840s to the present day and features a range of media including lithography, woodcuts, photography, ceramics and painting.
Gallery Director Tony Preston commented that the Tait Electronics Gallery is dedicated to Antarctic themes and the unique connection between the region and the city of Christchurch, long a starting point for Antarctic exploration and adventure.
“We are delighted to use our collection to raise awareness of the Auckland Islands and bring their history to life”.
Contemporary New Zealand artists Bill Hammond, Lloyd Godman, Chester Nealie and Laurence Aberhart travelled to the region as part of the ‘Art in Sub Antarctic’ programme in the summer of 1989/90. Bill Hammond and Laurence Aberhart, whose works are featured in 51 Degrees, have focused on the undisturbed landscape and its unique vegetation with dramatic effect.
“The Auckland Islands are like New Zealand before people got here. It’s bird land … It’s a beautiful place, but it’s also full of ghosts, shipwrecks, death…” Bill Hammond said.
Accompanying the works by Bill Hammond is a photograph by Lloyd Godman. Taken in the darkness of night Bill Hammond, Auckland Islands 1989 captures a haunting image of one of New Zealand’s most significant contemporary artists.
Some of the earliest visual records of the islands are by Louis Le Breton who visited the Auckland Islands aboard the Astrolabe as part of the French expedition led by Durmont d’Urville in 1840. The exhibition includes several lithographs produced by Le Breton, based on sketches completed during his visit.
Perhaps the most dramatic aspect of the Auckland Islands history is the large number of shipwrecks that occurred there throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s. Tales of survival from those unfortunate castaways stranded on the islands have been the subject of several contemporary artists, most notably Denise Copland who travelled to the Auckland Islands in 1995.
The remoteness and harsh weather conditions of the Auckland Islands group have kept human presence to a minimum and on several islands the habitat remains largely unchanged by people or introduced animals. The ecological importance of the islands was recognised internationally when they were declared a World Heritage Area in 1998.
Enderby Island Lion, Auckland Islands No. 6
Bill Hammond, 1990
Collection of the Southland Museum