Manufacturing Meaning: The University of Wellington Art Collection in Context

22 September 1999 - 31 January 2000

The inaugural exhibition of the Adam Art Gallery Manufacturing Meaning showcased ten key works from the university collection, spanning a period from the 1930s to the present. The works of Frances Hodgkins, John Weeks, Gordon Walters, Colin McCahon, Ralph Hotere, Michael Smither, Jacqueline Fahey, Richard Killeen, John Pule and Peter Peryer were each presented in relation to the artist’s practice or ideas and issues raised by the work, and each was accompanied by a catalogue.

Manufacturing Meaning offered important new insights into the history of New Zealand art, through the research and presentation of selected critical thinkerscurators, art historians, writers and artists Elizabeth Eastmond, Linda Tyler, Damian Skinner/ Ngarino Ellis, Ewen McDonald, Jack Body and David Crossan, Stuart McKenzie, Anna Miles, Greg Burke, Lisa Taouma, and David Maskill.

Concept Curator Christina Barton.

Project Summaries:
Elizabeth Eastmond on Frances Hodgkins
Kimmeridge foreshore, 1938

This key work by Hodgkins was seen with fourteen works by the artist, indicating her interest in the landscape and abstraction from surrounding motifs.

Linda Tyler on John Weeks
Figure composition I, [1950s]

Figure Composition indicates Week’s allegiance to French cubism and was compared to the still-life work of the French-born Louise Henderson and contrasted with figurative work by Colin McCahon

Damian Skinner/ Ngarino Ellis on Gordon Walters
Kahukura, 1968

This focus exhibition surveyed the values and meanings attached to the Maori art form of kowhaiwhai in the 1960s and 1970s and its part in stimulating a number of artistic experiments.

Ewen McDonald on Colin McCahon
Gate III, 1970

Works by European and Australian artists were viewed with Samuel Beckett’s Not I, referencing the idea of the threshold, and the metaphorical space between inner and outer worlds in McCahon’s painting.

Jack Body and David Crossan on Ralph Hotere
Song cycle, 1975

Hotere’s Song Cycle works were never seen in the context which inspired them; a performance of Bill Manhire’s poems in the 1970s. In the context of Manufacturing Meaning they were brought together in conjunction with the original reading of the Song Cycle poems.

Stuart McKenzie on Michael Smither
Christ driving the money changers from the temple, 1972

Smither’s painting was represented in the context of contemporary works reflecting on ideas of value, purity and corruption and the revised accepted feature of ‘commerce’ as an acquired feature of the Christian community.

Anna Miles on Jacqueline Fahey
The birthday party, 1974

Fahey’s work was the centrepiece for an examination of family portraiture and social commentary in historical and contemporary art.

Greg Burke on Richard Killeen
Welcome to the South Pacific, 1979

A suite of European and New Zealand works meditating on Killeen’s ‘cut-outs’ and referencing the idea of ‘specimens’, and the instability of the specimen as a sign of place and its translation into décor.

Lisa Taouma on John Pule
Mamakava, 1991

With John Pule, Taouma produced two video works to be seen on either side of Mamakava, indicating concerns central to Pule’s practice.

David Maskill on Peter Peryer
After Rembrandt, 1995

Peryer’s work was placed along side Rembrandt’s etching of the same subject with other historical material illustrating the centrality of art to trade, cultural exchange and movements of knowledge.


Accompanying the inaugural exhibition project Manufacturing Meaning: The Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection in Context, the Adam Art Gallery published a catalogue on each of the ten associated exhibitions. The following are available for purchase on our website:

Ewen McDonald on Colin McCahon: Gate III
Stuart McKenzie on Michael Smither: Christ Driving the Money Changers From the Temple
Linda Tyler on John Weeks: Figure Composition I
Anna Miles on Jacqueline Fahey: The Birthday Party
Greg Burke on Richard Killeen: Welcome to the South Pacific
David Maskill on Peter Peryer: After Rembrandt
Elizabeth Eastmond on Frances Hodgkins: Kimmeridge Foreshore
Lisa Taouma on John Pule: Mamakava
Lawrence McDonald on Ralph Hotere: Song Cycle series
Ngarino Ellis and Damian Skinner on Gordon Walters: Kahukura