Hodgkins "gangster" representation no surprise




Koro Don Te Maipi blesses the mural.



Artists Ruth Robertson-Taylor (left) and Kate Hartmann (right) cut a cake to mark the formal opening of the mural.


Waikanae artist, Kate Hartmann wasn’t entirely surprised when Mayor K Gurunathan told her, tongue in cheek, he’d never seen celebrated artist Frances Hodgkins represented as a “gangster”.


The representation, on the wall outside the entrance to the former Waikanae library, is a large instagram image of Hodgkins based on a well-known photo from the 1920s but re-imagined for modern times.


Kate Hartmann and fellow artist Ruth Robertson-Taylor from Porirua have transformed the exterior of the former library building by reproducing Hodgkins’ colourful fabric designs on its walls.


Mayor Gurunathan’s comments were made when he was speaking during a ceremony to bless the mural. The project is the result of a commission from Kāpiti Coast District Council’s Public Art Panel which seeks to bring Hodgkins’ legacy to a new and wider audience.


“I’m not sure I’d use the word ‘gangster’ but it was certainly my intention to portray Frances Hodgkins as staunch and formidable,” Kate Hartmann says.

She and Ruth Robertson-Taylor both regard Frances Hodgkins as an inspirational figure and a great role model for young New Zealand women.


“That’s why I wanted her to look formidable,” she said.

Ruth Robertson-Taylor is recognized as one of New Zealand’s leading mural artists. She has worked on many projects but she regards this one as special.


“As two women artists, we are claiming a kind of whakapapa to a tradition of women making art to honour the memory of those who preceded us.


“Hodgkins’ patterns are full of movement, playfulness, and joy. I hope Waikanae gets energized by her zesty patterns and recognizes their special place in the town's history and future.”


Kate Hartmann sees the commission as a privilege. “It’s a community project for me. It’s my town and Mahara Gallery next door is my gallery.”


The pair started work on the project in mid-November of last year, but were forced to “down brushes” during Level 4 of the Covid 19 crisis.


“A big part of the magic for me with projects like this is the process and working through the challenges each individual site presents,” says Kate Hartmann. “And this one had many, not least the lockdown and covid19!”


Mayor Gurunathan thanked the artists for what they had achieved and the Council’s Public Art Panel for its vision in commissioning the work.


He said the mural brought light to Mahara Place and enhanced the work done last year on upgrading Waikanae Town centre.


The mural was formally blessed by Kaumatua Koro Don Te Maipi.