THE INTRIGUING DETECTIVE HUNT FOR SOME OF NEW ZEALAND’S MOST SIGNIFICANT AND EVOCATIVE PUBLIC ART MURALS
“Wanted: The Search for the Modernist Murals of E. Mervyn Taylor illuminates the artistic practice of a celebrated Pākehā artist who belonged to a post-war generation focused on establishing a national identity for New Zealand through the creative arts. It looks past the façade of this nationalism to uncover a body of works that – when viewed together – provide a critical insight into the cultural legacies of New Zealand’s socio-political history, in a way that carries much relevance today.” – Bronwyn Holloway-Smith (editor)
Acclaimed modernist artist E. Mervyn Taylor is one of New Zealand’s art heroes. Ahead of the times, Taylor actively supported the protection and promotion of Māori culture in an era when such sentiments were far from mainstream. Taylor was noted for his engravings and woodcuts, and in particular for his work as the first art editor of the New Zealand School Journal. Less well known are his murals. Late in his career, Taylor created twelve of these arresting and beautiful public artworks. Tragically, some have been destroyed, and others presumed lost – until now.
Wanted: The Search for the Modernist Murals of E. Mervyn Taylor began as a serendipitous discovery: editor Bronwyn Holloway-Smith found Taylor’s ceramic tile mural Te Ika-a-Maui stacked in several cardboard boxes in Auckland. Commissioned by the New Zealand government to celebrate the opening of the Commonwealth Pacific Cable in 1962, Holloway-Smith learned about the mural through her PhD research into connections between New Zealand national identity and the Southern Cross Cable, which is New Zealand’s main internet cable. Holloway-Smith’s tenacious research and ‘detective work’ not only led to the rediscovery of Taylor’s lost murals but also to a plan for protecting and preserving this country’s public art heritage.
Wanted is being launched in Wellington on March 3 in association with the City Gallery’s major exhibition This is New Zealand, which explores the role art has played in asserting, shaping, shifting, and questioning notions of New Zealand national identity. Taylor’s reassembled mural Te Ika-a-Maui will be on display as part of Holloway-Smith’s project The Southern Cross Cable: A Tour. For more: https://citygallery.org.nz/exhibitions/?category=coming-up.
This beautifully designed linen bound, hard-cover book pays tribute to the life and creative practice of this modest, progressive, philanthropic artist, who was pivotal to the nation-building narrative of the 1950s and 1960s. Wanted surveys each of his twelve murals in a series of essays by expert contributors as well as revealing Taylor’s creative process – the sketches and gouaches for his murals, many unseen until now. Showcasing these ‘blueprints’ alongside an impressive number of archival images, Wanted offers a fresh perspective on New Zealand history.
NOTES TO EDITORS
The search for Taylor’s murals was made possible by the creation of the E. Mervyn Taylor Mural Search and Recovery Project, through the Massey University College of Creative Arts. Spearheaded by Holloway-Smith, this has led to the establishment of the New Zealand Mural Heritage website and register, to protect other vulnerable public artworks. A framework for a New Zealand Public Art Register to manage public art is being developed with Manatū Taonga Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
ABOUT THE EDITOR
Bronwyn Holloway-Smith is an investigative artist and researcher based at the Massey University’s College of Creative Arts, where she is also completing a PhD. She lives in Wellington with her three young children and civil union partner. Wanted is Bronwyn’s first major book publication.
PUBLISHED BY MASSEY UNIVERSITY PRESS 12 MARCH 2018 RRP $79.99