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Sport 21: Spring 1998



How do we record a flight? We have a few Baxter poems, Smithyman's ‘Flying to Palmerston’, Stead's sequence ‘Yes, T.S.’, which links Auckland with England, and Bill Manhire's ‘Breakfast’, which brings us back home via Singapore … We have Colin McCahon's North Otago and Canterbury landscapes with their cubist-inspired, tilted planes of landscape—views which would be inconceivable without air travel. There's McCahon's famous, now destroyed, 1953 canvas entitled International Air Race, the artist looking down on two aeroplanes and through sporadic cloud to the earth beneath; also McCahon's ‘Jet Out’ works of the early 1970s and the drawing entitled page 35 Birds, Bread, Bug (a work John Cage would have approved of) with its disturbed, vertiginous perspective, hacked to pieces by the artist's hesitant yet brutal marks.

We have the aerial cityscapes of British/NZ painter Robert Ellis, who was an aerial photographer in the Royal Airforce during World War II, then spent the rest of his life painting roadways and urban geometries from that same viewpoint. Even Ralph Hotere's abstract paintings of the 1960s were influenced by his training as a pilot in the air force during the previous decade, Bill Manhire suggests.6

Black and white image of a drawing

Colin McCahon, Birds, Bread, Bug (1972)