b. 1970, New Zealand (Ngāpuhi)
Lives in Christchurch
Working primarily in oil on canvas, Darryn George has mastered a unique style of geometric abstraction which incorporates dizzying pop art colours and a host of influences from popular culture to Maori kowhaiwhai. The lineage of abstraction in George’s measured geometric compositions is discernible - from Mondrian and the de Stijl movement, through to Peter Halley, Bridget Riley, Sol Lewitt, Donald Judd and closer to home, Gordon Walters. However, where pure formalism is impervious to cultural references, George appears to be defining himself through them. Sarah Farrar observes that often the social content of George’s works are hidden or disguised under layers of paint, pattern and colour. It is interesting to note that this tactic was employed by Maori artists at the turn of the century, who disguised ostensibly ‘heathen’ images within complex kowhaiwhai designs to render them indecipherable to the missionaries. It is fitting that George’s own designs are influenced by the interior motifs found within Maori meeting houses. Once estranged from his Nga Puhi heritage, George has come to embrace his origins and celebrate them in his practice.
In series such as ‘Tipuna,’ we see George converge Maori and Christian ideologies. These works borrow bilingual titles derived from Maori transliterations of biblical characters demonstrating the intermarriage of Maori and Christian belief systems. Conceptually, the works evolved from a Maori tukutuku panel design known as ‘Poutama’ (Stairway to Heaven). This motif symbolised the climb of folk-hero Tawhaki to the heavens to obtain the three baskets of knowledge. The narrative serves to reinforce the importance of education, achievement and advancing oneself for the benefit of the tribe.
George’s latest paintings are playfully polychromatic and combine abstracted shapes with foliage and flowers to create dreamlike gardens of delight. In the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque shootings of 2019, the Christchurch-based artist witnessed diverse crowds gathering at the Botanic Gardens, coming together to join those affected in solidarity. This outpouring of love and support inspired the marked shift in George’s practice, and led him to formalise a new visual vocabulary he had been experimenting with since 2018. The resulting paintings are deliberately naïve, both in technique and palette, using oil pastels to combine illustrative depictions of gardens with cheerfully saturated colour. They are direct and joyful. They ask their viewers to revel in their exuberant innocence, but they are also grounded in a quiet and restrained composition. The vertical structure we recognise from previous bodies of work becomes both a pillar of strength, and the river flowing from Eden to nourish the crowds below.
George’s works are held in public collections in New Zealand, including The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū and the Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. His work is the subject of the artist’s monograph Darryn George (Mihi Publishers, Christchurch, 2010). In 2013 George exhibited in Personal Structures, a collateral exhibition of the 55th Venice Biennale.
George holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Canterbury University, 1993) and a Diploma of Teaching (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, 1998). Based in Christchurch, he divides him time between teaching and painting.
Gow Langsford Gallery has represented Darryn George since 2008.
1993 Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting), University of Canterbury
1994 Diploma of Teaching, Christchurch College of Education
1998 Master of Fine Art (Painting), Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
Download full Curriculum Vitae
2022 Ngā Manu, McLeavey Gallery, Wellington
2021 Water Lilies, Milord Galleries, Dunedin
2020 A River Flowing out of Eden, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
All Kinds of Trees, McLeavey Gallery, Wellington
2014 Register, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
2012 Karakia, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
2010 Rarohiko, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
2009 Whare Pukapuka, Brooke Gifford Gallery, Christchurch
Darryn George in Good Company, The Gallery at Woollaston, Nelson
2008 Pukapuka, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
2006 Marama/Arawhata, Peter McCleavey Gallery, Wellington
Turanga, Starkwhite, Auckland
Matapihi, Brooke Gifford Gallery, Christchurch
2005 From Maui to Moses, FHE Galleries, Auckland
Mihini, Starkwhite, Auckland