Theo Schoon and regional modernism

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I thought that I'd introduce an interesting New Zealand photographer --Theo Schoon. He is interesting because he set himself the task of developing a regional modernism based on the amalgam of Maori art and European modernism.


SchoonDrymud3.jpg
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.

His training meant that he was knowledgeable about contemporary European art. This included the use of 'primitive' art as a source by modern artists to rejuvenate what they saw as outdated academic painting traditions. Primitivism also provided Schoon with a way to combine his European and Asian heritage

SchoonTdrymud3and.jpg
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?

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This page contains a single entry by Gary Sauer-Thompson published on April 20, 2009 5:06 PM.

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