Placemakers 1, 1996
Acrylic on Canvas
197 x 266 cm
Jennifer Gibbs Trust
Born 1947, Christchurch, New Zealand; lives in Lyttleton, New Zealand

W. D. Hammond’s paintings of damp, dense, tropical jungles inhabited by anthropomorphic birds offer a counter-narrative to popular images of Pacific landscapes, those all-too-familiar images of sun-drenched white sand beaches. Although Hammond prefers not to speak publicly about the sources of his imagery, an often-cited reference for his bird-creatures is the work of the nineteenth-century ornithologist Sir Walter Lawry Buller, whose book A History of the Birds of New Zealand contains an encyclopaedic visual record of New Zealand birds.

Placemakers I puts the viewer deep into the world of Buller’s birds. In observing these birds with human qualities, we witness metamorphosis, a major theme for Hammond. These hybrid bird-human figures might also suggest the European settlement of New Zealand and the subsequent changes that took place.

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