Hands to Bathe
Imagining a Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary
Phil Dadson – Bruce Foster – Fiona Hall – Gregory O’Brien – Jason O’Hara – John Pule – John Reynolds – Elizabeth Thomson – Robin White
In May 2011, nine artists voyaged on the HMNZS Otago to the remote Kermadec region, half way between New Zealand and Tonga. This exhibition celebrates an experience which enriched the lives and work of all involved. The title comes from naval tradition: When a vessel crosses the Tropic of Capricorn, the ship is brought to a halt and, at the command ‘hands to bathe’, crew and officers are allowed to leap into the ocean. For the artists on the 2011 voyage, this immersion in the Pacific, hundreds of kilometres from dry land, paralleled their creative and imaginative experience as they delved into the new and all-encompassing reality of the Kermadecs.
Through painting, photography, video, sculpture and printmaking, ‘Hands to Bathe—Imagining a Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary’ takes us back to the pristine waters of the region and to Raoul Island—New Zealand’s northernmost outpost. The exhibition highlights the at-sea experiences of the artists, their interactions with the ship and its crew, and their engagement with the natural world. The resulting works channel the energy and character of the Kermadecs—a place familiar to many members of naval staff but unknown to the vast majority of New Zealanders.
While the artists have, in their different ways, explored the ocean and humanity’s relationship to it, the Royal New Zealand Navy is also examining its role in the oceanic environment. Working not only alongside artists, as in this case, but with scientists, conservationists and others, the Navy is currently exploring its changing role in the Pacific region, forging new relationships and dealing with problems such as over-fishing, environmental degradation and pollution.
The exhibition celebrates THE KERMADECS, one of the few pristine marine eco-systems left on the planet. It encourages us to think about, as well as to imagine, this unique marine eco-system—and to ask ourselves what we can do to preserve it for future generations.
Works produced during and after the Kermadec voyage have been exhibited around New Zealand, as well as in Tonga, Chile and on Easter Island. This new exhibition ‘Hands to Bathe—Imagining a Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary’ features many works never before shown in this country, including a number produced especially for the Navy Museum. The exhibition is sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts, in partnership with the National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy and the Royal New Zealand Navy.