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Contemporary art

Western art

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Voice of mimesis



Geoff Thornley

New Zealand

1942 -


Geoff Thornley is one of New Zealand’s most dedicated abstract painters. Based in Auckland, he has exhibited regularly since the 1960s, receiving his first international exposure when he was selected for the XIII Sao Paulo Biennial in Brazil in 1975. Thornely’s contribution to abstract art in New Zealand over the past forty years has been significant, though modestly acknowledged. As is evident in the painting 'Voice of mimesis', Thornley’s is an art of astonishing subtlety. Exploring the quiet tensions between line, colour and surface, and carefully tuning those tensions to the physical presence of the viewer, Thornley creates artworks designed to receive – and repay – long and careful contemplation.

Thornley emerged in the 1970s as part of a circle of artists, including Gordon Walters and Milan Mrkusich, who found an important ally in Auckland-based art dealer Petar Vuletic. Vuletic’s tireless advocacy earned recognition for these abstract painters in New Zealand, but their profiles remained modest in comparison with other modernist painters, such as Colin McCahon and Rita Angus, whose work better aligned with the regionalist preferences of the then art establishment. Despite lingering ambivalence in New Zealand about non-objective art, Thornley’s practice in the decades since has been characterised by remarkable dedication, persistence and patience. Rather than clamouring for attention, his paintings confidently wait for us to come to them. Indeed, it is only when viewing them ‘in the flesh’ can we truly appreciate the buried linework in their layered surfaces and their delicate interplay with light.


Place where the work was made

Devonport Auckland New Zealand



Media category


Materials used

oil on canvas


5 paintings :

a - Voice of Mimesis A1, 244 x 166.5 cm

b - Voice of Mimesis A2, 244 x 150.5 cm

c - Voice of Mimesis A3, 244 x 200.5 cm

d - Voice of Mimesis A4, 244 x 156 cm

e - Voice of Mimesis A5, 244 x 165 cm

Signature & date

Signed u.r. corner, verso, oil 'G Thornley'. Not dated.


Purchased with funds provided by the Friends of New Zealand Art and the Mollie and Jim Gowing Bequest Fund 2016


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Geoff Thornley

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Andrew Jensen, Geoff Thornley Voice of Mimesis, Paddington, 2015.