Black Light: Ralph Hotere
Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote: 'Have I said it before? I am learning to see. Yes, I am beginning. It still goes slowly; but I intend to make the most of my time.'!
In-a catalogue essay accompanying 'Black Light', a recent exhibition of Ralph Hotere's major works organised by the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington, and Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Francis Pound echoes Rilke with his comment that 'we shall learn to see what Hotere is by seeing what he is not'. Rilke makes us aware that when we look we do not always see; Pound, on the other hand, suggests that it is through what we cannot or do not see that we find out what is before us. Both writers present the idea that seeing is not merely a passive activity but one involving viewers in active engagements with the images and works before them.
The works in 'Black Light' (including a number of significant pieces created over a forty-year time span, as well as some of Hotere's collaborations with New Zealand-born British artist Bill Culbert), make the viewer pay attention to these processes of seeing. Hotere's works remind us that we have to learn to see what is in front of us. It is through striking and abstract presentations that Hotere suggests an approach to the experience of looking that is at once tentative and multiple.