Gordon Walters was born in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1919.Between 1935 and 1939, Walters trained and worked as a commercial artist while studying part-time at the Wellington Technical College, before embarking on extensively travels throughout Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe. His career spanned six decades until his death in 1995 and he is widely-recognised as oneof New Zealand's foremost abstractionists.
Walters' journey to Europe allowed him to study Mondrian, Klee and other European abstract painters at first hand and he combined these influences in his work with concepts and stylisations drawn from his studies of indigenous Maori rock art. In a time when landscape was the required subject in New Zealand, Walters resolutely pursued his understanding of geometric abstraction. To add to the shock of the new, the impertinent style of Walters work with its indigenous motifs came at a time when New Zealanders did not consider indigenous art to be ""art"" at all. Walters acknowledged the inspiration he received from the koru and related motifs such as rauponga and although he was widely criticised in the 1980s for appropriating these motifs, Walters himself saw it as a positive response to being an artist with bicultural roots. In his later years he moved away from bicultural references to focus on austere, reductive abstract paintings in which the neutral forms of the rectangle were predominant. In such works he responded to contemporary American abstraction, but also expressed his long-held interest in art as a universal means of expression from which any barriers to meaning should be expunged.
In 1983 a major retrospective of Walters' work was held at theAuckland City Art Gallery and toured to venues throughout New Zealand. This helped to establish his status as an important figure in the New Zealand modernist movement along with Milan Mrkusich andColin McCahon. In 1994, a follow-up survey exhibition entitled Parallel Lines: Gordon Walters in Context displayed Walters' wide-ranging influence on successive generations of contemporary New Zealand artists and served to further cement his place in the canon of New Zealand painting.
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