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'Traffic Cop Bay', 2003

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2003-0027-1 A-C Traffic Cop Bay

This is an image of a large, three-panel acrylic painting, or triptych, by New Zealand painter Bill Hammond (1947- ). (For notes on the significance of this resource go to 'metadata record' at the end of this description and see the 'educational value' section). It has a complex, layered perspective, showing detailed plants, birds, trees, islands, mountains, and bird figures in a bay. The painting is predominately a muted green-blue colour. The title refers to the bay where the artist has his studio. The painting was completed in 2003 and measures 2 m x 3.75 m.

Source Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Educational value:
  • This asset shows the work of Bill Hammond, a prominent, contemporary New Zealand painter and printmaker - Traffic Cop Bay is located near Hammond's home in Lyttelton, Christchurch, on the South Island, and this work is part of a series of paintings by Hammond in which birds stand as guardians of ecological history, as well as victims of ecological irresponsibility.
  • It displays the style and themes that are typical of Hammond's work - the stylised wings of the bird figures resemble those of angels; near the centre of the artwork is a target-practice-like dummy, with its back turned; the thin, topmost layer of paint has been allowed to run, forming streaks and rivulets indicating a state of 'decline'; and a number of bird figures are shown as human-like, holding objects such as a rifle, a plank, a ladder, sticks and fronds, representing the direct relationship between humans and birds.
  • It is a 'summary' painting, capturing many of the themes of Hammond's bird series, which he began after visiting the subantarctic Auckland Islands in 1989 as part of the 'Art in the Subantarctic' project - Hammond described the Auckland Islands and their abundant bird and plant life as making 'you feel like a time traveller � primeval forests, ratas (type of native New Zealand tree) like Disney would make', and later commented that birds 'are perfect, they're calm, they don't have any expressions'.
  • It presents an ecological theme - bird extinctions and declining numbers of threatened species are significant issues in New Zealand today.
  • It is an example of local art that works in a global context - its ecological theme is as relevant to international audiences as it is to New Zealand.

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