Whareakeake Series

Russell Moses


From 2006-9 Russell Moses created an innovative and successful evolving series of wall works based on Whareakeake (Murdering Beach) Otago, using the colours of pounamu to reference the history of the site. The series taps into a well of creative possibilities ansd connects all ideas central to his practice - construction, deconstruction and the pleasure in the freedom in painting.

The Whareakeake series is based on a secluded beach near port Charmers. In 1815 New Zealand's first art dealer, William Tucker, lived with the Maori at Whareakeake and for two years organised an export trade in hei tiki for the European market. Tucker became a minor legend in New Zealand as the man who started the retail trade in preserved heads. Maori abandoned Whareakeake in 1825 and it became a treasure trove for European 'curio hunters'. In the 1880s sluicing guns from central Otago Goldfields were used to wash out the pounamu artefacts to sell. Vast quantities were still found by the archeologists when they arrived in 1919.

This series by Russell Moses focuses very much around the beach's history; many works are made up of series of finely crafted greenstone coloured paintings. Although some of the pieces reference pounamu patterning many others depict fragments of the landscape; both water and land. "I engage in a process of reduction to create the simplest image to express the spirit of the land" Russell states.

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