Ralph Hotere, Black painting XV, from ‘Malady’ a poem by Bill Manhire, 1970. Purchased 1971. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (1971-0024-2).
Ralph Hotere rarely spoke about his art, but he sometimes incorporated the words of New Zealand poets in his works.
These black paintings use a pattern poem by Bill Manhire – a play on the words ‘malady’, ‘melody’, and ‘my lady’.
Language, for Hotere, was one way of slowing down the delivery of meaning in a painting. This work needs to be read as well as looked at. It begs you to savour the words in your mouth, to absorb the subtle tones of black with your eyes.