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Design Review: Volume 4, Issue 3 (June-July 1952)

Wood Engravings By Mervyn Taylor

page 64

Wood Engravings By Mervyn Taylor

Black and white wood engraving of Maui taming the sun by E. Mervyn Taylor.

Maui Taming The Sun

Mervyn Taylor is well known to readers of Design Review, mainly because of his charming wood engravings that have from time to time appeared in its pages. Less is known perhaps of his rather thankless task of co-editing and publishing this journal in the face of the night-marish cost problems of publishing to-day. Those of us who know Mervyn Taylor know, too, that he has attained the quality of Design Review often at considerable perparticular interest when we heard that he had been awarded the National Art Scholarship of a thousand pounds offered by the New Zealand Art Societies.

This year the conditions were changed to allow the entry of more mature artists. Too often in this country the artist of promise is so burdened with responsibility in middle life that he cannot bring his work to fulfilment of earlier promise. Mervyn Taylor is not a young man in years. His ability as a craftsman is already well known. All who know him personally cannot but be impressed by his sincere and humble manner, and by the integrity with which he seeks perfection in every aspect of his illustrations. Each biological and historical detail is accounted for, but never at the cost of æsthetic completeness.

His projected course for the next two years is what might be expected from this man. For some time he has been fascinated by Polynesian mythology. When we look at the plates of ‘Maui Taming the Sun’, and more especially ‘The Magical Wooden Head’, and hear him speak of his hopes, we glimpse what might be, and that, too, is fascinating. Apart from a work undertaken by a German artist, Dittmer, at the beginning of this century, a work now out of print, rare and expensive, there is no adequate visual record of the Maori legends. Mervyn Taylor intends to begin with Grey's Poly nesian Mythology as a basis for a series of wood engravings suitable for reproduction in book form. In order to do authentic work, he will live for periods in Maori communities to study and make drawings of the Maori people, and study their carving and artifacts in museums and other sites. In the present rapidly shifting state of Maori culture, valuable material in the nature of unwritten legends and the interpretation of ancient carving is fast being lost. The recording of this knowledge presents another problem in that the mysticism native to all mythology is so easily lost when transferred into the pictorial tradition of another culture. It is inevitable that the story told in Maori carving interpreted into traditional European art will be akin to the French song or Chinese poem turned into English. In Mervyn Taylor's recent work, however, one realises his unique ability as an interpreter. We can look forward in the next two years, not only to some delightful translations, but also to some gems of the wood engraver's art.

page 65
Black and white wood engraving of the Magical Wooden Head by E. Mervyn Taylor.

The Magical Wooden Head