Don Binney (b. 1940) Mana Island 1971 Oil on canvas on board Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association (on loan to Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection)

Don Binney’s painting Mana Island has been part of Victoria’s visual landscape for 40 years. One of the largest works in the Collection, it was commissioned by the Students’ Association in 1971 whilst Binney was a Visiting Lecturer, and was created in collaboration with students. Binney’s interest and investment in Mana Island as an artist and ornithologist started while spending time at Bottle Creek in Titahi Bay. He lived there alongside other artists and writers such as Robin White, Michael King and Sam Hunt. This work is the largest manifestation of his artistic project focusing on the island, one that also found expression in a series of drawings and sketches shown at the inaugural exhibition at the Dowse Art Museum. Binney developed his painting practice during the 1960s, a time when artists were consciously seeking to develop a style distinctive to New Zealand. In Binney’s case this ‘new approach’ included experimenting with scale and abstraction, and juxtaposing birds with landscape as exemplified in his 1963 painting Tabernacle, also held by the Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection. The presence of native flora and fauna in Mana Island is reduced but certainly still an important subtext, especially as the island has since become a vital sanctuary for bird and marine life. Mana Island occupies a special place in the history of Victoria and documents a unique collaboration between the student community and an artist invested in depicting the local landscape.