John R. P. Hodgson
Recollecting: Fragments of Identity
This project began with an idea about identity being based in memory, with a particular interest in the fragmentary nature of recollecting childhood memories of place and event. Rather than exploring the technical nature of memory and how art-making specifically addressed that in the late twentieth century, this project has been more a presentation of recollections on the fuzzy side of memory where historical accuracy runs a distant second to mediated and selective filtering. Where certain artefacts of memory are prominent raisins in the otherwise bland and murky unremembered pudding of life.
It is my proposition that our individual sense of identity owes much to these artefacts. Over the year, the project became about taking recollected real events, that now exist only as prejudiced ephemera in the mind of an individual, and making them real and tangible once again in a visual artwork.
A concurrent thread in the project is the memories that one misses out on due to circumstances of cultural filtering. It was only through this project that I discovered my first school was a stone’s throw from a local marae. A marae where once an early missionary and a paramount chief collaborated to avoid a northern Maōri attack on colonial Auckland – for instance. A contemporary Maōri art historian’s1 proposition that an understanding of Maōri ‘recollections’ of land use, events and place could be understood by applying the ancient notion of ‘palimpsest’, reading layers of concurrent overlapping remembrances each valid from different viewpoints, became important in the project both as a way of reading ‘history’ and of building the material object, the painting.
The recurring and layered motifs of river, a horseshoe bend on the Northern Wairoa (yellow, brown, muddy and full of eels), manuka scrub, rolling hills, waka (canoe) on the water, fires in the land – all these and more bridge the personal history of a small Pākehā child of the fifties, of the land, with the broader ancient and contemporary history of tangata whenua, the people of the land. My childhood years were the ‘50s and ‘60s at Kirikōpuni, Northland.
- Dr Rangihiroa Panoho