Dec 4 2016 - Jan 14 2017

Denis O’Connor is a long established New Zealand sculptor, richly represented in all of our major art museum collections.  Less well known to the rest of New Zealand is his commitment to Waiheke Island social history.  In 1984, his exhibition ‘SONGS OF THE GULF’ at the Auckland Art Gallery and the Dowse Art Museum resulted in him being awarded the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship at Otago University – one of this country’s most prestigious awards in the visual arts.  From time to time he has continued to make artworks that are specific to the history of the Hauraki Gulf and his life here since 1970.


In 1993, as an acknowledgement of the island’s evolving wine culture, he created a fictitious vineyard named 372 ESTATE, named after our local telephone land-line code.  This enabled him to explore aspects of Waiheke social history within the format of a wine label.  These labels were a device that riffed on the language of wine culture, such as terroir; grape varietals; landscape motifs and taste signifiers to encode our local Waiheke narratives and folk heroes.


These individual works on slate sometimes remember specific legendary residents, like the South Sea Buccaneer Johnny Wray or Pally Hooks, a son of the pioneer Hooks family from Man O’ War Bay, who was the last of the shingle-pushers.  From his research, O’Connor uncovered that Bishop Pompallier sometimes celebrated Mass at Wharetana Bay during the 19th century and the Bishop is reimagined in a Putiki Bay scene.  So too is the painter Charles Goldie and his family connection with the burning down of the Rocky Bay Store.


One of these fake labels remembers a divisive political issue – the barricading and protests over the closure of the loop-road to Orapiu during the 1980’s and 90’s.



Another features the appearance of our new mega-supermarket in 2016.  The central piece in this exhibition honours with affection our vanishing architectural tradition of the ‘bach’ and links this to mapmaking and cartographic genres.


The Mudbrick Vineyard has recently opened a reconfigured version of Denis O’Connor’s ‘ARCHIVE WINE BAR’ from headland Sculpture on the Gulf 2015, as a new food and wine venue.  The exhibition ‘SIP’ is an acknowledgment of this and a unique album-like glimpse at Waiheke’s distinctive local history and character.


- Denis O'Connor December 2016


All works acrylic on slate


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