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Denis Bourke Paintings

April 2, 2022 @ 10:00 am April 27, 2022 @ 3:30 pm

Denis Bourke Paintings

2 – 20 April 2022
Opening: Saturday 2 April 10am – 4pm
Feature wall and Central Gallery

This exhibition covers areas of interest that have been at work concurrently over several decades in Denis Bourke’s long-standing practice. Bourke has travelled widely across Aotearoa New Zealand, and is a longtime illustrator and recorder of land features. 

 Reflecting his reaction to and engagement with the land, some works depict actual locations, mainly in Taranaki and Hawkes Bay. Also included are several works in which landform processes such as river action, volcanism–the discharge of magma onto the Earth’s surface–and tectonic activity are depicted in simplified forms with a diagrammatic quality. Another thread includes paintings based on non-art images, borrowed from the sciences of geomorphology and cartography. Some are large scale colored renderings of actual diagrams (e.g. Geomorph) and maps (Green Section, Red Section), while others are imaginary compositions (Eight Views, A,B,C & D).  

 The introduction of visual systems from disciplines removed from the traditional NZ landscape painting genre adds new layers of meaning and association. Outlining, borders, grids and encyclopedia or atlas colours are some of the borrowed techniques which emphasize two-dimensional flatness and provide a contemporary feel. 

 A recent development is the idea of physical evolution and change over time extended to include the transformation of land and terrain by different cultural land uses. Aotearoa New Zealand’s earliest land patterns have been largely obliterated by successive human cultures, with modern land management informing the dominant visual patterns we observe. These cultural patterns can overlay earlier traces of land use, and all human-driven change can overlay the original geomorphology. The result is a palimpsest landscape, where only remnants of earlier forms can be discerned. Some of the paintings which demonstrate this are expansive oblique vistas of actual regions such as Taranaki and Waikato, while others are imaginary or based on memory. Ultimately, Bourke seeks to blend the relationship between layered mark making and paint washes with the concept of layered physical and cultural patterns in the land.


About the Artist:

Denis Bourke grew up in Taranaki with the mountain as a constant presence—a monumental and miraculous landform that changed daily and seasonally, providing a reference for position and distance in the province. This presence has directly informed his art practice; Bourke is interested in space and distance, curious and noble shapes and formations, and landscape processes.

 Denis drew from an early age, and was later inspired to paint the sensuous Wellington hills at Paremata while studying Physical Geography at Victoria University. The work of Michael Smither, Don Binney, Robin White and Colin McCahon were important early influences, as was the use of geomorphological diagrams and topographical maps as a basis for images that demonstrate landscape evolution and change.

 Denis has exhibited his work since 1974 and was a finalist in the Benson and Hedges Art Award 1974, the Birkenhead Art Award 1987 and 1988, was joint winner of the Tokoroa Art Award 1996, finalist in the Wallace Art Award 2000, and the North Shore Art Award 2001.

His work can be viewed at

Instagram @denisbourkenz 


April 2, 2022 @ 10:00 am
April 27, 2022 @ 3:30 pm
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