Born in Christchurch 1962, Marian Maguire graduated from the University of Canterbury in 1984 and 1986 she studied at the Tamarind Institute of Lithography, Albuquerque. During 1991 she was Artist in Residence at the Otago Polytechnic School of Art and in 2010 was Artist in Residence at Tylee Cottage, Whanganui. She received an Award for Excellence from the Canterbury Community Trust in 1998.
Marian’s images mix the imagined with the real and display a personal response to history. Since 1997 her prints and paintings have been largely related to Greek vase painting and in the series of etchings Southern Myths (2002) she worked a classical narrative into the New Zealand environment.
In the next series of lithographs, The Odyssey of Captain Cook (2005), the Endeavour became the vehicle by which the ancient Greeks collided with resident Maori, and in The Labours of Herakles (2008), a suite of twelve lithographs and eight etchings, the archetypal Greek hero is cast as New Zealand pioneer. In Titokowaru's Dilemma the action shifts to the land wars of South Taranaki in the late 1860's.
Alongside the narrative images Maguire has also produced abstract work in painting, drawing and print. In the exhibitions Forest (2003) and Flow Diagrams (2004) she has abstracted sections of patterning from the Greek vases to produce formal, optic works often with a botanical theme. More recent drawings, The Paper Garden (2007) and Botanical Studies from an Exploratory Voyage (2008), continue with patterning and move towards invented naturalism.
Marian Maguire has exhibited widely throughout New Zealand and her work is represented in public collections including: Te Papa Taongawera, Museum of New Zealand; Auckland Art Gallery, Toi o Tamaki; Christchurch Art Gallery, Te Puna o Waiwhetu; The Waikato Museum, Te Whare Taonga o Waikato; University of Canterbury; Massey University; The Hocken Collection, University of Otago: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; National Gallery of Australia; Central Queensland University, Australia; Cambridge University, United Kingdom; The Birthplace of Captain Cook Museum, Middlesborough, United Kingdom.
For more info about Marian Maguire's work, plus images from past series refer to: http://www.marianmaguire.com/index.html
The protagonist of Marian Maguire’s new print series, Titokowaru’s Dilemma, is an impressive figure who embodies the complexities and contradictions of nineteenth-century New Zealand history. Tītokowaru was a trained Māori tohunga but a Christian convert; an advocate of peace but an outstanding military strategist; a powerful and charismatic leader but one who lost the support of his followers. Rather than simply confusing us, these diverse characteristics offer a more nuanced understanding of Tītokowaru than we might have of more conventional early New Zealanders. And it was this that made him an absorbing subject for Maguire, whose prints exploring colonial history challenge simplistic readings of the past.
Living in the Taranaki district, Tītokowaru was involved in battles against the British in the early 1860s, but then led a number of important initiatives promoting peace with settlers. When continuing land confiscations pushed Māori into war to avoid starvation, he first resorted to plunder without bloodshed then, in a situation of escalating conflict, deployed an effective combination of fear-provoking propaganda, clever field-engineering and guerrilla tactics to overcome British troops far superior in number to his own. The unexpected dissolution of Tītokowaru’s army in 1869 after a series of victories, reputedly because he undermined his mana by sleeping with the wife of an ally, did not diminish his reputation among settlers as a formidable opponent, and an uneasy peace was maintained. Further land deprivations led to a campaign of passive resistance in which Tītokowaru took part alongside Te Whiti and Tohu. Resistance was finally quashed in a massive show of force by the British at Parihaka in 1881, which decimated Māori power in the area and saw Tītokowaru imprisoned a number of times before his death in 1888.
In these prints, Maguire continues to develop her distinctive imagery drawn from ancient and colonial sources. The bold silhouettes of Greek vase paintings are particularly evident in her black-and-white etchings, such as those depicting amorous adventures involving Greek gods, Māori maidens, satyrs and settlers, in a series entitled Colonial Encounters. In the large colour lithographs of Titokowaru’s Dilemma, figures of similar style and clarity are set into New Zealand landscapes based on colonial paintings and photographs. In Maguire’s intriguing cultural crossovers, we find such unexpected meetings as Socrates in discussion with Tītokowaru, Persephone keeping company with Hine-nui-te-pō in the underworld, and Zeus stalking Papa in a Whangarei landscape. Figures are transposed into unexpected historical settings, with Gustavus von Tempsky dying on the battlefields of Troy, Venus de Milo taken captive in a Māori pā, and the Christchurch statue of Captain Cook entangled in rata roots in the Taranaki bush. Such intriguing visual inventions continually surprise and delight us, and tease our imaginations with human connections across time.
Presenting Tītokowaru more as a thinking man than a fighter, Maguire frames his story in terms of the kind of questions that Socrates asked – we discover him debating ‘what is virtue?’ with Socrates, or discussing ‘what is peace?’ with his compatriot Te Whiti. The fact that, though pictured against Mount Taranaki, these paired figures mimic the pose of Achilles and Ajax from a famous black-figure vase by the Greek potter and painter Exekias, forges links between New Zealand and ancient Greece, showing that these debates have a timeless significance. In A Taranaki Dialogue, the enquiry continues in a series of small etchings of the Taranaki landscape, finally focusing on two questions that seem to underpin Maguire’s project as a whole: it is she, as much as Socrates or Tītokowaru, who asks us, ‘what is myth?’ and ‘what is history?’.
'The Labours of Herakles' is currently on tour through regional galleries in New Zealand. For exhibition dates see the NEWS page.
This exhibition has also been reviewed by Giovanni Tiso on his blog:
To see images from the complete series of 'The Odyssey of Captain Cook' and 'The Labours of Herakles' you can go to Marian's facebook page:
Most of these works are no longer for sale (which is why they are not all listed on this site).
Article from THE PRESS, CHRISTCHURCH
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Continuing her exploration of colonialism, master lithographer Marian Maguire has transported Herakles - or Hercules as the Romans knew him - to Aotearoa. She talks to ROSA SHIELS.
On the walls of Christchurch's PaperGraphica Gallery, a Greek hero has his hands full, labouring on the land as a pioneer of colonial New Zealand. Herakles, or Hercules as the Romans knew him, the embodiment of courage and strength of classical legend, has crossed the seas of time to transform the New World for those who would follow. The works in this exhibition are another step along the continuum of theories about colonialism explored by artist and master lithographer Marian Maguire.
Whether he is clearing forests and felling trees, battling with Maori warriors, writing letters home from Taranaki, or standing up to be counted at Gallipoli, Herakles appears as well focused on the tasks at hand as he was confronting the 12 Labours requested by King Eurystheus of Tiryns . . . killing the monstrous Nemean Lion, capturing the Cerynian Hind, cleaning the Augean Stables and so on.
Suspend your disbelief for a minute about why the club-bearing, lionskin-clad Herakles has materialised in Aotearoa, and you can appreciate the immediacy and pure beauty of Maguire's works: 20 largescale, fine-line colour lithographs and eight small black etchings. She has combined authoritative borrowings and reworkings of earlier images - historical lithographs, pre-colonial drawings, old photographs, and the art and text of classical vases - to present layer upon layer of detailed myth and meaning, reference and allusion, appropriation and reinterpretation.
But what is Herakles actually doing here, a toiling sepia and planar journeyman amid the kauri, flax, and cabbage trees?
To answer that you need to backtrack a little.
Maguire has had a longstanding interest in the art and artistry of the classical Greek vases and their cultural subject matter. Over time, she has been introducing their images, shapes and themes to the South Seas.
''I was wondering if you can overlay more than one set of myths in one country,'' she says. ''If you went through an area of man, could there be two completely different stories about why it was like the way it was?
Which is what cultures would normally do - they would just try to make a world view that made sense to the culture and environment.
''I decided that it was perfectly OK to have more than one set of myths for one country that overlaid each other and they didn't have to be logical together.''
In 2001's Southern Myths, she depicted Achilles and Ajax in New Zealand landscapes. In the catalogue essay to Maguire's next exhibition, The Odyssey of Captain Cook (2005), Dr Anna Smith writes: ''In this new show, the collision of three cultures, not two, takes the viewer by surprise.
Using the voyages of Captain Cook as the pretext, Maguire explores how a nation remembers and represents its history.''
Maguire: ''I got Captain Cook to bring the Greeks, and once he arrived there's settlement. So the current series is about Herakles being a New Zealand pioneer.''
The lithographs in The Labours of Herakles exhibition are an elegant and often humorous union of the ancient and the colonial: of Herakles wrestling not aminotaur or a lion but a taniwha; of the Amazons as suffragettes; of Athena scolding him for his lack of progress; of Herakles trying to construct a chariot from No. 8 wire. ''It's about colonialism, the whole subject. I was trying to define the series within the period 1840 to 1915 and get Herakles, the Greek hero who gets things done, to have the task of colonising the country. So he does all the things that are required - signing the treaty, clearing the land, introducing the animals then killing them. The transformation,'' she says.
''I'm uncomfortable about the idea of colonialism; it's kind of hideous.
''There's all the cultural effects and the environmental effects, and at the same time you see things like Herakles' approach to resources: if the forest needs to be cleared so that you can get the timber, you could. And if it's not close to the road you burn the rest of it down so you can get the timber out. I think when we look harshly at the colonists we should actually look more at ourselves.''
One of the lithographs in this series is a reinterpretation of the wellknown print British Camp Surprised by Maoris. The Maori were driven off with heavy losses. This is a selfportrait of flamboyant mercenary soldier Gustavus Von Tempsky on a white charger beating off the Maori warriors who surround him.
''I remember this painting being around a lot in reproduction in the '60s and even the '70s, and now I haven't seen it in reproduction for quite a long time - because it makes us so uncomfortable to have the heroic idea of the man driving off the Maori, with the heavy losses.'' Maguire has Herakles re-enact the scene. ''I wanted Herakles to do it, because basically you've got to face up.''
Highly regarded as a master collaborative lithographer throughout Australasia, Christchurch-born Marian Maguire grew up in an artfocused family with six siblings. She trained at the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts under Barry Cleavin, graduating in 1984, and polished her skills at the Tamarind Institute of Lithography in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She set up Limeworks print studio with Stephen Gleeson in 1987 and went on to establish PaperGraphica in 1996.
She has exhibited throughout New Zealand and is represented in major national public collections in New Zealand, Australia and Britain.
Maguire has an abiding love and respect for the artisan printmaker and engraver of two and three centuries ago when, as she writes in her Odyssey introduction, '' a good pair of spectacles would've been a luxury''.
In those days, artists were sent off with the explorers into the New World and instructed to collect verbal accounts and visual information from their exotic destinations. In Europe, publishers, she writes, ''employed artisan engravers to copy other engravers' work in order to meet demand. As a result the same New World characters were fitted into various scenes as was convenient.
''Detail was guessed at, or fudged. In a process of visual Chinese Whispers, illustrations would be easily digested by their audience, but were only approximately faithful to the originals.''
Given the likelihood that there was as much skewed information about the New World as there is today about the old, Maguire's layered myth-making and hypothetical histories make just as much sense as these copies of copies of originals. They may even uncover more truth in the telling.
''The information about the 19th century was often presented in lithographic form because that was the medium of the day. So if I want to talk about it now, it's quite good to put it in the same visual form that people saw it then,'' Maguire says.
''If they were paintings, they'd have that 'painty look'. The seduction of paint, in some ways, would take away from the reading of the subject.'' Lithography is a precise and intensive process, with the artist inscribing fine lines on darkened stones. Whether she will have Herakles continue his own pioneering focus is undecided.
''It's tempting,'' she says.
''You can get Herakles to do anything you want. He is a very useful character. He was told what to do by King Eurystheus, who gave him a set of Labours and he had to do them. He never led an army.
''He wasn't like Odysseus, who was in charge. He was just someone who was given instructions and mostly worked on his own. He got things done and didn't question whether or not it was the right or wrong thing to do, it was just the thing to do. So you can get him to do anything.''
Rosa Shiels (The Christchurch Press
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