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To see and to know are not necessarily the same

January 2021


Robin White

New Zealand

1946 –

No image
  • Details

    January 2021
    Media category
    Materials used
    barkcloth (masi), earth pigment, ink, soot, plant-based liquid medium
    186.0 x 220.0 cm
    Purchased with funds provided by the Friends of New Zealand Art Fund and the Don Mitchell Bequest Fund 2021
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Robin White
    Artist information
    Robin White

    Works in the collection


  • About

    One of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most distinguished artists, Robin White created To see and to know are not necessarily the same as part of an extraordinary body of work in response to Henri Matisse. ‘I have been thinking of the body of work I am embarking on as a conversation,’ wrote Robin White in early 2020, ‘between me and Matisse and some selected others and with, I hope, the viewer...’

    A plaque carved with Chinese calligraphy was one of Henri Matisse’s beloved objects. It appears among his own artworks in many photos of the walls of his Nice apartment. Matisse’s plaque was the inspiration for the one in this picture, which was created by Robin White’s artist and calligrapher friend Taeko Ogawa in Hiroshima. White sent Ogawa two pieces of Fijian barkcloth on which to execute her calligraphy. The completed pieces were returned to White by courier on the morning New Zealand’s first lockdown began.

    Ogawa’s beautifully vital brushwork transmits a message of mindful gratitude. The characters ‘drink/water/think/origin’ invite us to contemplate the source of the fundamental things that sustain us. They are also an acknowledgment of the spirit of resilience and the love of nature that she and White admire in Matisse. The title of the work comes from the Japanese critic and aesthetician Soetsu Yanagi. Indeed, White considers the whole work to be a homage to Yanagi and his love of ‘the beauty of everyday things’

    The floral patterns at left also hold a connection to place and to people. They derive from the floral lavalava that White has owned for more than 20 years and which she uses as a protective cloth when painting barkcloth. The bird in flight is a kererū, a native New Zealand wood pigeon considered a taonga (treasure) by Māori.

  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 1 exhibition

    • Matisse Alive, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 11 Oct 2021–03 Apr 2022

Other works by Robin White