Caption: Warren Viscoe, Heteralocha Acutirostris - the Huias, 2004,
Plum Wood. Private Collection
Warren Viscoe is a key cultural figure in New Zealand with direct childhood and on going
creative links to Whangarei.
Born in Auckland in 1935, Warren grew up on the outskirts of Whangarei, surrounded by the
bush. “The persistence of nature as a subject matter has always been a strong feature of my
art,” says Warren. It was the “notions of the early days and what I experienced” that have
continually surfaced in his extensive Oeuvre.
Viscoe enrolled in a building apprenticeship in 1952 and worked on many of the building sites
in and around Whangarei, eventually travelling as a journeyman carpenter to Africa, England and Canada. His experiences as a builder had some influence on his art, especially works that grew out of
assemblage. “If you look at timber frame houses, that’s all they are – assemblages of sticks. How they join
and the simple mechanics of bracing and counterbalancing and tensions; it’s all in there and came out in my work”.
His interests evolved from building to fine art which he pursued by travelling overseas to England where he
enrolled at Chelsea Polytechnic, London in 1958 to study painting. He then moved on to Canada where he
studied part-time at Ontario College of Art in 1961–62, and then back to New Zealand and full-time study at
ELAM, University of Auckland in 1963– 65, where he gained a degree in Fine Arts.
In Locus: The Sculptures of Warren Viscoe, 2004 to 2011, Warren brings to Whangarei works from three
sculptural series: The Pages from the Book of Song Birds Series, 2004; The Coats Series, 2011 and The
Houses Series, 2011. All of the works in the exhibition showcase Warren’s exquisite wood carving skills and
his sense of construction, as in I Built a House for Wetas, and often an unusual sense of humour as in
Carnivore, a work from the Coats of Bark Series, 2011, which has a dog in one pocket and a bone in
another. His keen sense of environment is strongly evident in the Book of Song Birds Series, 2004, of which
Heteralocha Acutirostris - the Huias is one , and although witty and lyrical it’s dark connotations suggest all is not as it should be.
Warren Viscoe’s work is deeply researched and references the past in contemporary and innovative ways and he is nationally recognised for the stature of his creative practice. He is based in Auckland where he has a studio at his home in Ellerslie. His work is included in major collections, private and public, including Auckland Art Gallery/ Toi O Tamaki, James Wallace Arts Trust, Rotorua Museum of Art and History/ Te Whare Taonga O Arawa, Sarjeant Gallery/ Te Whare Rehua, Wanganui, and Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand.
Warren Viscoe's links with the art museum and Whangarei are extensive and he is represented in the Whangarei Art Museum Collection by a public sculpture of a giant-sized Puriri moth “ The Ghost Moth” hung on the front exterior wall of the Hub-Te Manawa, commissioned by the art museum in 2007.
“All my childhood was spent in Whangarei, and I still go back there. I find great solace in those areas around the town” and so it is the Whangarei Art Museum’s distinct pleasure to once again bring Warren Viscoe, along with Gerda Leenards, home.