A mural of Rita Angus looks out from the Dominion Building in Wellington.
During Wellington’s January heat wave, Kiwi artist Askew One, a.k.a. Elliott O’Donnell, spent two weeks painting a tribute mural of one of New Zealand’s 20th century artists, Rita Angus.
The mural is based on a 1940s portrait photo of Angus taken by artist/carver/photographer Theo Schoon. Askew One said it was an honour to create this mural ‘and a privilege to paint my first major large scale work in Wellington.’
The project has been a three year labour of love for organiser Bruce Mahalski, an illustrator, museologist and street art advocate. Mahalski first came across Angus’s work through her drawing. ‘She had a great ability as an artist, excellent craftsmanship,’ he said.
Born in Hastings in 1908, Angus grew up in Palmerston North and Napier, and enrolled at Canterbury College School of Art in 1927. Touring exhibitions of oriental art were inspirational for Angus, feeding her growing interest in eastern art and thought, influences of Chinese landscape paintings and Japanese woodcuts showing in her art.
Angus lived alone for most of her life. ‘As a woman painter, I work to represent love of humanity and faith in mankind in a world, which is to me, richly variable and infinitely beautiful,’ Angus said. She continued to paint until shortly before her death in 1970.
Angus’ most famous work is Cass (1936), which did not receive any significant attention during its first exhibition in Christchurch in 1937. Angus received praise for her work much later in her career, with interest growing in the late 1950s, and which continued to grow posthumously, with a major exhibition of her work in 1982-83 in the National Art Gallery.