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Ancient Greece meets indigenous New Zealand July 12, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Hellenic Light Oceania.

Printmaker stages clash of the Titans
It is an unusual but thought-provoking combination: Ancient Greece meets indigenous New Zealand in the latest collection from Christchurch-based artisan printmaker Marian Maguire.
The Odyssey of Captain Cook, a culmination of Maguire’s interests in the Age of Discovery, Maori culture and classical antiquity, places the Greeks at the scene of Cook’s arrival.
“At that time the Europeans had a huge interest in the Greeks,” explains Maguire. “When Cook arrived, all the baggage of Western culture came with him. The Greeks were underpinning culture, like stowaways on the ships of history.”
She is intrigued that while the Europeans claim to have Greek lineage, early Maori probably had more in common with classical culture.
“For a start, neither culture was monotheistic and their gods related to the land or sea and other things around them. These gods were capable of irrational emotion that we wouldn’t expect from the Christian God. They also lived their lives in similar ways. They were both ocean-going people; they had a similar means of travel and lived in clan-sized units.”
Maguire researched these civilisations over the two years she spent creating her 10 lithographs, but says she is no historian and is more interested in asking questions than providing answers.
“If there had been a meeting between the Ancient Greeks and the Maori, what would it have been like, them looking at each other? The question of what would happen if the two cultures were to meet fascinates me.”
So what does Maguire imagine the result would be? She reflects on the impetuous nature of both cultures’ deities: “Probably very violent.”
Many of the first viewers of the collection at Titirangi’s Lopdell House Gallery last week remarked that certain visual elements seemed oddly familiar. Each of the prints is a pastiche of abstracts from existing artworks, copied by hand and innovatively juxtaposed.
One of the lithographs, in which Greek war god Achilles and a Maori warrior play a game of draughts, features a backdrop of Mt Taranaki as painted by Charles Heaphy in 1840. Another of the prints revolutionises an old engraving of the attack made on another ship of European explorers as they neared the coastline of Tahiti. Maguire transforms it into a distinctly New Zealand scene by replacing oriental-looking canoes with a waka design from a late 18th-century geography book. A drawing of the goddess Athena, copied from a Greek vase, watches over the riotous scene from the corner of the image.
It is a complicated process, explains Maguire, made even more so due to the time-consuming nature of her technique of choice. Each stone-to-paper lithograph requires five weeks of full-time work to complete. But Maguire says it is worth the extra time and effort because of the “very sensuous” results.
A Captain Cook Museum in England has already expressed an interest in being the next gallery to host the prints.
“The thing about the meeting of the Europeans and Maori is that history has become quite politicised and there’s a sense that people can’t look at it freely,” says Maguire.
She hopes the unexpected third dimension in these works will change that. “If there’s one thing I want people to walk away from this collection with, it’s a open interest in history.”
The Odyssey of Captain Cook, by Marian Maguire is at Lopdell House Gallery, 418 Titirangi Rd, until August 20.

Related Link > http://www.lopdell.org.nz/

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