Sunday, November 20, 2005

John Bevan Ford transcendant

Artist John Bevan Ford, whose paintings marrying traditional Maori forms with landscapes brought international recognition, died of cancer September 16. He was 75.

I learned this from the Guardian, which features an obit written by Dale Idiens, keeper of the Department of History and Applied Art in the National Museums of Scotland, which has a large Polynesian connection.

I don't recall seeing anything in a New Zealand newspaper, and a search of the NZ Herald site and Stuff fails to turn up a story. The only New Zealand mention on Google comes from Massey News, which acknowledged his role establishing contemporary Maori visual art papers on the Palmerston North campus before his retirement in 1991.

I know the media culture in this country rates coverage of the art world about as low as it rates coverage of te ao Maori, but John was a significant contributor to this country on a number of levels, and their silence reflects badly on them.

John had a distinguished career as an educator, both at Hamilton Teachers College and at Massey, and competed many major public art commissions, including a traditionally carved waka in Taranaki Museum and a meeting house in the Wairarapa.

His explorations of Maori culture and identity within a cross cultural framework has helped many younger Maori artists as they try to fit traditional concepts and practices with modern materials an themes.

Also in the Guardian, Julie Adams captured a quote from John summing up his approach: " "That which transcends culture is the best art of all."

John Bevan Ford has transcended all. Haere, haere, haere.


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