Mark Adams

Nine Fathoms Passage

24 April - 23 May 2015

Mark Adams is one of New Zealand’s foremost documentary photographers, with over thirty years engagement in our colonial and pre-colonial histories. His first journey to Dusky Bay in 1995 launched his exploration of James Cook’s landing sites. His portrayal of these locations responds to the vision of painter William Hodges who was present on the second of Cook’s voyages. Adams made further expeditions to Dusky Sound in 1997 and 1998, more recently returning in May 2014.

The inlet was first sighted and named by Cook during his first voyage to New Zealand on the Endeavour in 1770. On the second voyage in 1773 the Resolution arrived in Dusky Sound after three months skirting the edge of the Antarctic ice fields. Cook and his crew then spent two months exploring the Sound. Appointed by the Admiralty to record these discoveries was English painter, William Hodges. He produced many drawings on board and on his return created four paintings depicting Dusky Sound, with portraits of the local peoples, thought to be Kati Mamoe. A soft golden hue imbues these paintings with the romanticism of a grand and beautiful landscape. Idealized and sublime, these were the beginning of a European vision of New Zealand, in particular the South Island. For Mark Adams these paintings denote the start of our settler origins and our cross-cultural history with its attendant turmoil.

This exhibition is an extension of the work Adams began in 1995. It is the last of four works responding to Hodges’ four paintings made following the time he spent in this remote part of the world. Seen as a means to document our history rather than simply depicting the landscape, Adams places himself inside Hodges’ paintings and looks out from these sites to reassess the history of this singular landscape. He slowly reveals the character of the place, only discovered through sustained attention and many hours spent camping in these locations, often in extreme conditions.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is called, Nine Fathoms Passage, 27. 6. 2014 – 1. 7. 2014. After William Hodges ‘Waterfall in Dusky Bay with a Maori Canoe, 1775-7. Placing his camera at the point where Hodges painted the Maori canoe, Adams’ has taken in a 360 degree panorama, producing his largest work to date. Occupying an entire wall of the gallery, this eleven panel, eleven metre long panorama, is photographed in colour. Looking in all directions from a singular point, recorded over a period of time, this monumental artwork captures the eerie stillness of this historically significant New Zealand place.

The three earlier works from the Dusky Bay series: View in Pickersgill Harbour after William Hodges, 17 May 1995 (3 panels), Indian Island, 360° panorama after William Hodges’ ‘View in Dusky Bay’, 2 – 10 August, 1998 (8 panels), and After William Hodges’ ‘Cascade Cove’, 21 May 1995 (4 panels), are hand printed, gold toned silver bromide black and white prints and an edition of each is in the collection of Auckland Art Gallery.

Adams’ works have been exhibited and collected by Auckland Art Gallery; Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa; Christchurch Art Gallery; Govett Brewster Art Gallery; and Queensland Art Gallery. Significant exhibitions of Adams’ work have been staged at the Adam Art Gallery, Victoria University of Wellington; Sydney Museum; Zelda Cheatle Gallery, London; The National Library, Canberra; Sao Paolo Biennale 1997, among other major museums.

Mark Adams gratefully acknowledges Creative New Zealand, who have generously supported this expedition.