I’ve lived around Kingston-Upon-Thames for a number of years now. There is one spot I just really love. It is a mural, a study of the Artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and I have always been intrigued by the work. Partly because it decorates the underside of a railway bridge in one of the less frequented parts of town, but mostly because of it’s colour and texture that turns an otherwise underwhelming functional structure into a beautiful work of art. The way the work came to pass is itself exceptional, with a great number of local artists, schools and businesses coming together in what is billed as the biggest work of its kind in the UK. If I didn’t have enough reasons to be grateful for the area I live in, this is just a further piece in a wonderful jigsaw. The work was organised by the local artist Karen Parry who oversaw and worked on the entire project. My thanks go out to this exceptional person.
But for me the story does not stop there. The majority of my family live in and around the town of Whangerai, Northland New Zealand, the area in which the artist himself settled in his latter years, becoming a naturalised New Zealander. His fingerprint is left indelibly on the local culture, with another project in Whangerei town itself having started, with the intention to build a permanent Art center to commemorate Hundertwasser. Stage One of the project involved another similar effort by local people, this time led by Greg Guy who has since sadly passed away.
Friedensreich Hundertwasser was born in Austria in 1928. His family were Jewish and he survived World War 2 in Austria by posing as a Christian. This was not a time to be a Jew in Hitler’s homeland, one can only imagine the things he must have seen. He dedicated he life to his art which he meshed with his work as an environmental activist. One particular piece of his that seems to encompass all of this, is a toilet building he renovated in the small township of Kawakawa, New Zealand. I have know this building for most of my adult life, yet it is only recently that I have put two and two together and worked out that this is a work of the artist himself. It is uncanny how his work has followed me around the globe, but I think this actually shows the far reaching effects of his influence. Please excuse my presence in a couple of the photos, these were taken over a couple of trips to NZ.
On a recent visit to Kawakawa, actually two years ago this week I encountered another local project. As you will see from the photos it inspired even my young sons and their cousin.
What I am growing to love is the artists blend of texture, his failure to accept the need for straight lines as he mimics the randomness of nature. But also his love of colour, not just the use of it, but the unpredictability of both colour and texture in all that he does.
I have been doing quite a bit of research recently, and whilst I do not want this blog to be a biography of the artist, something I will leave to others more suited to the job, I do want to show the extent of his reach. A final part of New Zealand he influenced that I want to mention, was the Koru, often billed as the natural successor to the current National Flag. A simplistic piece yes, but an apt representation of the fronds of the fern, something key to NZ culture.
Something really interesting I have been looking at is his architecture, what must have been incredible difficult to achieve from a structural point of view, but to me is how the world should look rather than out current obsession with grey and straight lines. Featured below are some of his buildings, these are not my photos, so thank you to those who took them. I do however plan to track each and every one down and visit them myself in the future.
And finally just a small taste of his painting, which I think shows how important the blending of life and nature was to the Artist.
Sadly Friedensreich Hundertwasser died in 2002, aboard the Queen Elizabeth 2, aged 71. His body was laid to rest in New Zealand, a country that I feel reflects his lifelong quest for the balance of Nature and Art. Whilst he is gone, his work and his influence will carry on throughout the ages, inspiring people to grasp the simple concept that life is and nature are one and the same.