This review was first published in the print edition of Landfall 241.
Ralph Hotere: The dark is light enough by Vincent O’Sullivan (Penguin, 2020), 368pp, $45
The artistic achievement of Ralph Hotere (Te Aupōuri) towers like a great lighthouse above the pure harbour. It’s as if he illuminates, with a delicate precision and a sweeping blade of light, New Zealand’s brooding darkness, spiritual as well as topographical. Born near Mitimiti, Northland, in 1931 and baptised into the Roman Catholic church as Hone Papita Raukua Hotere, he was an art prodigy almost from the beginning and drew at every opportunity—even with a stick in the sand on the beach near his childhood home, content to watch the waves wash away his efforts. His most remarkable and significant period of artistic production, though, lasted for around forty years between about 1962 and 2002. He died in Dunedin in 2013. His was a busy, restless, crowded existence, as Vincent O’Sullivan tells it in his fascinating ‘biographical portrait’, which succeeds in synthesising a colourful, gossipy, anecdotal narrative out of the many paradoxes, mysteries and obsessions of this energetic and prolific New Zealand artist’s life. [Read more…]