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Iconic New Zealand artists honoured

Media release. Embargoed until 6pm, 7 August 2007

Iconic New Zealand artists honoured

Five of New Zealand's finest and most acclaimed artists will tonight be honoured for a lifetime of significant artistic achievement at the Arts Foundation of New Zealand's prestigious Icon Awards, held at a gala event in Auckland.

The recipients of the 2007 Icons Awards are photographer Ans Westra, visual artist Don Peebles, theatre designer Dr Raymond Boyce, sculptor Arnold Wilson, and the late actor Don Selwyn.

"Each of these most treasured artists are leaders in their field, they are icons of New Zealand art," said Arts Foundation of New Zealand chairperson, Ros Burdon. "They join a growing circle of New Zealand's pre-eminent artists, which includes Janet Frame, Ralph Hotere and Margaret Mahy."

Ans Westra is one of New Zealand's most esteemed documentary photographers, with a career spanning almost 50 years. She immigrated to New Zealand from the Netherlands in 1957 and her work was brought into the public eye in 1964 with the Department of Education's publication Washday at the Pa. She is known particularly for her photographs of Mäori, the 1970s counterculture and protest action in general.

A key figure in the emergence and evolution of New Zealand abstract art, Don Peebles is not only known as a leading force in contemporary New Zealand painting but also as one of New Zealand's most senior and respected active artists. His work has been represented in both public and private collections in New Zealand and internationally.

Dr Raymond Boyce is one of New Zealand's pre-eminent set and costume designers whose work for theatre, opera and ballet has set the standard of excellence from which New Zealand's performing arts scene has hugely benefited. Apart from his theatre work, Raymond is also justly celebrated for his tapestry designs for the rebuilt Globe Theatre in London.

Arnold Manaaki Wilson (Ngai Tuhoe and Te Arawa) is one of the most significant forces in contemporary Maori sculpture. Arnold was the first Maori to gain a Diploma in Fine Arts with first-class honours in sculpture. His work has been exhibited extensively in New Zealand and overseas. He has also had a successful and long career in art education, leading a cultural revival of Maori art in schools and in the wider community.

Don Selwyn (Ngāti Kuri and Te Aupouri) had a long-standing and distinguished career in the New Zealand film, television and theatre industry as an actor, director, producer and casting director. He championed Maori drama, performing in both Maori and English, and was a prime mover in establishing respect for Maori viewpoints and culture in mainstream New Zealand film and television.

Don Selwyn passed away on April 13, 2007, in Auckland, just days after the Arts Foundation presented Don with his Icon Award, which he accepted after understanding that the award was not just for his acting, but also for his significant contributions as a producer and director.

"The Foundation is honoured that Don was able to join New Zealand's most treasured artists as a celebrated Icon before his death," says Ros Burdon.

Each award recipient is presented with a specially commissioned medallion and pounamu pin designed by stone sculptor John Edgar. The pin is a gift, while the medallions are returned at the end of the artist's life, and presented to a successor.

As the medallions are passed down through generations of our finest artists, the mana of the Award will grow. For instance, the Icon Award which was first presented to Janet Frame in 2003 will this year be passed on to Ans Westra.

The aim is for there to be a select circle of just 20 living Icon Artists at any one time - people honoured for a lifetime of artistic achievement and dedication to their chosen art form.

All the 2007 recipients were honoured to receive the Award. Don Peebles said, "When I look at the names of the existing holders of the award I am most truly humbled. Ans Westra said, "The Icon Award is up there on that pinnacle of lifetime achievements."

"The Icon Awards give New Zealanders the opportunity to identify those artists who have excelled as contributors to this country's cultural identity. The Awards ceremony enables us to thank the Icon Artists for their contributions and to celebrate their achievements with them," says Ros Burdon

Neil Paviour-Smith, the managing director of Forsyth Barr, principal sponsor of the Arts Foundation, said: "We are proud to partner with the Arts Foundation as they widen the family of Icons today by honouring another five of our most venerable artists, whose rich gifts have enhanced our cultural heritage. The vibrancy these artists add to our society must be acknowledged and celebrated. These Awards are a way to recognise the very top tier of this important group of creative New Zealanders."

The 2007 Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icons artists join:
Len Castle - Potter, Maurice Gee - Writer, Peter Godfrey - Musician, Patricia Grace - Writer, Alexander Grant - Dance, Pakariki Harrison - Carver, Ralph Hotere - Visual Artist, Russell Kerr - Choreographer, Margaret Mahy - Writer, Sir Donald McIntyre - Opera Singer, Milan Mrkusich - Visual Artist, Donald Munro - Opera, Diggeress Te Kanawa - Weaver, Hone Tuwhare - Poet and Sir Miles Warren - Architect. Writer Janet Frame (1924-2004), who was also given an Icon Award in 2003, passed away in 2004.


For more information, images or to set up an interview with one of the 2007 Icon Award recipients, please contact:
Simon Bowden -021 746 706
Andrea Tandy - 0275 637 695
Stephanie Garner - 0274 364 506


ANS WESTRA - Photographer

One of New Zealand's most esteemed photographers, Ans Westra's career spans almost 50 years. She is known particularly for her photographs of Mäori, the 1970s counterculture and protest action in general.
Born in 1936 in Leiden, the Netherlands, Ans' stepfather's camera helped to spark an early interest in photography, while a visit to the international exhibition The Family of Man in Amsterdam, and a book by Joan van der Keukens, Wij Zijn 17 (We Are Seventeen), inspired her first photographic documentation. Ans traveled to New Zealand in 1957, joining the Wellington Camera Club and working in various local photographic studios. Ans' first international recognition came in 1960 when she won a prize from the British Photography magazine for her work entitled Assignment No. 2. Her professional career as a fulltime freelance documentary photographer began while working for the School Publications Branch of the Department of Education and Te Ao Hou, a Māori magazine published by the Department of Internal Affairs.
Ans received a Certificate of Excellence from the New York World's Fair held in 1964-65 for The World and Its People. She has received several Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council grants for the practice and publication of her work focusing on New Zealand and its society. Ans' book The New Zealanders was published in 1971, followed by Notes on the Country I Live In with essays by Tim Shadbolt and James K Baxter in 1972. She was the Pacific regional winner of the Commonwealth Photography Award competition, has been artist-in-residence at the Dowse Art Gallery and is a former president of PhotoForum. In the 1990s she taught and tutored, had several exhibitions and residencies and travelled extensively. In 2004 the exhibition Handboek: Ans Westra Photographs opened at the National Library and is on show at the Christchurch Art Gallery until 4 November 2007. Ans was awarded the Companion of the Order of New Zealand Merit (ONZM) for services to photography in 1998. Ans Westra lives in Wellington.


A key figure in the emergence and evolution of New Zealand abstract art, Don Peebles is known as a leading force in contemporary New Zealand painting and is one of New Zealand's most senior and respected practitioners.
Don was born in 1922 in Taneatua near Whakatane. He studied art in Florence briefly at the end of the Second World War, before returning to New Zealand to work for the Post Office in Wellington and to attend classes at the Wellington Technical College Art School. He studied at the Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney, and travelled to London to work with the Constructionist artist Victor Pasmore whose works, together with those of other Constructionists, influenced Don to become the first artist in New Zealand to explore constructionist abstraction. He became known for painted relief constructions, usually framed in shallow trays. In the 1970s he began to work with looser elements, in particular un-stretched, unframed canvases. In the 1990s he returned to works on a smaller scale.
Don was appointed to the staff of the University of Canterbury's School of Fine Arts, becoming head of the Painting Department in 1980. Don retired in 1986, and returned to painting fulltime. His work has been acquired by both public and private collectors in New Zealand and internationally. He has been awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) for his services to New Zealand art and given an Honorary Doctorate in Literature by the University of Canterbury. Don Peebles lives in Christchurch.

Dr RAYMOND BOYCE - Theatre Designer

New Zealand's most significant designer for theatre and ballet, Raymond Boyce is also a puppeteer and puppet designer and builder.
Born in 1928 in London, it was Raymond's early study in England, working for the John Wright Marionette Theatre as a puppeteer and designing for the University College Drama Society in London, which led to his career in New Zealand. He came on the invitation of Richard Campion, joining the New Zealand Players in Wellington in 1953. Raymond worked with the newly formed Opera Company, and with Paul Gnatt's Ballet Company, and he formed a puppet company that toured New Zealand. Raymond designed and directed for the Australian Opera Company. He was appointed to the Design Committee for Expo '70 in Japan and as design consultant to the architects of the new Hannah Playhouse in Wellington, becoming resident designer there. In his 11 years at Downstage, Raymond designed more than 100 productions. He also designed for the Wellington City Opera and for the New Zealand Ballet into the 1990s.
Raymond tutored and mentored at the New Zealand Theatre Federation Schools, Wellington Polytechnic, Victoria University and Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School. He was Executive Designer for the Globe Hangings presented to the newly rebuilt Shakespeare's Globe in London. Raymond has been made a Member of the Order the British Empire (MBE) and awarded an honorary Doctorate in Literature from Victoria University. Raymond lives in Wellington.

ARNOLD MANAAKI WILSON, Ngāi Tuhoe and Te Arawa - Sculptor

Arnold Manaaki Wilson has been a major presence on the contemporary Māori art scene for half a century.
Born in 1928, Arnold's father was of the renowned Ngāti Tarawhai sculptors and carvers of Te Arawa, a tradition passed down to Arnold. Arnold won a scholarship to attend Wesley College in Paerata. He studied art at the University of Auckland's Elam School of Fine Arts graduating in 1955 as the first Māori to gain a Diploma in Fine Arts, with first-class honours in sculpture. A long and successful career in art education followed his time at Teachers Training College. Arnold led a cultural revival of Māori art in schools and in the community. Along with other contemporary artists such as Ralph Hotere, Marilyn Webb and Sandy Adsett, he questioned orthodoxies and practices of both Māori and Pākehā art traditions, drawing upon his bicultural background to produce his work. As a sculptor he has experimented with many traditional and non-traditional materials, working with metal, vivid paint and wood in various forms. He has been one of the most important mentors of a Modernist Māori art movement within New Zealand.
Arnold has exhibited extensively in New Zealand and overseas. Since his retirement from the position of Director of the Cross-Cultural Community Involvement Art Programme in the Department of Education, he has continued his educational role as kaumatua and adviser to a number of public art programmes. He worked for many years to establish the Awataha urban marae complex in Auckland. Arnold Wilson lives in Auckland.

DON SELWYN, Ngāti Kuri and Te Aupouri - Actor, Director, Producer, Casting Director
With a long-standing and distinguished career in the New Zealand film, television and theatre industry as an actor, producer and director, Don Selwyn was a champion of Māori drama. He performed in both Māori and English, and was a prime mover in establishing respect for Māori representation and cultural expression in mainstream New Zealand film and television.
Born in 1936, Don grew up in Taumarunui. Originally a rugby-playing English teacher, his acting career was initiated by a dare which led him to play Oberon in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. He toured with the Nola Millar Shakespeare Company and appeared in the musical Porgy and Bess, the film Sleeping Dogs and in television series such as The Governor and Pukemanu. Don was a founding member of the New Zealand Māori Theatre Trust. He ran the film and television course He Taonga i Tawhiti, and with producer Ruth Kaupapa Panapa formed He Taonga Films. He produced and directed Māori language dramas and several Māori dramas in English. Don was executive producer of the 2000 New Zealand Media Peace Award winning feature The Feathers of Peace, and produced the first full length feature film to be made in Māori -Te Tangata Whai Rawa o Weniti, the Māori Merchant of Venice.
Don received the Companion of the Order of New Zealand Merit (CNZM) as well as an honorary performing arts degree from Unitec. He was New Zealander of the Year in 1995 for his contribution to arts and culture, and received Te Tohu Tiketike a Te Waka Toi, an award presented annually by Te Waka Toi for outstanding contribution to the development of Māori arts.


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