Theo Schoon, dry mud 2, circa 1968, silver gelatin print
In Picturing Space: Theo Schoon, Ross Crothall and Visual Art in the Pacific in Double Dialogue Anthea Gunn says that European modernism shaped the philosophy behind Schoon's art practice, and especially, the possibilities he saw for the use of Maori visual art.
Theo Schoon, dry mud 3 silver gelatin print
The European avant-garde constantly sought the 'new': the advance in art that would enable an artist to 'further' the Western tradition in their work in the context of a European understanding of art. Schoon was continuing a tradition in European art of turning to other cultures for inspiration and he positioned himself, and contemporary New Zealand art, as having the possibility to revitalise modern European art, to take the next step in the avant-garde.
Is this attempt by Schoon to create a regional modernism an appropriation of Maori material to suit his purposes as a contemporary artist? Or is it European culture coming to terms with the new visual iconography of Maori culture to form a New Zealand culture; a coming to terms in a contemporary context with an awareness of the prior significance and prior use of the visual iconography of Maori culture?