Robin White

Robin White (Ngāti Awa b. 1946, Te Puke, Aotearoa New Zealand) is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most celebrated artists. A key figure in the Regionalist movement of the 1970’s, White’s canvases from the early years of her career typically focused on scenes of small-town and rural New Zealand life, which were executed in a hard-edged realist style, characterised by strong outlining, segments of unmodulated colour and clear raking light. After establishing herself as a distinctive painter and screen printer in Aotearoa New Zealand, white relocated to Kiribati where the different nature of the physical and social environment introduced profound changes to her art-making. After a fire unexpectedly destroyed her home and studio in 1996, White began her serious forays into collaborative art-making, seeking a compassionate thread that might merge principles and methods from western art practices with those of Moana Oceania. Since this time White has been working with others on the production of large-scale ‘masi’ or ‘ngatu’ many of which depict interiors  integrated with modest iconographic allusions to the Pacific, rendered in a range of earth pigments and natural dyes. White was chosen to represent New Zealand at the 1986 Sydney Biennale and the 1993 First Asia/Pacific Triennial. In 2002 the Hocken Library, University of Otago, curated a survey show of White’s work Island Life: Robin White in New Zealand and Kiribati that toured nationally, and her collaborative tapa work, A New Garden (2009) was exhibited at the Fifth Asia/Pacific Triennial in 2010.

White produced some of the most iconic images of New Zealand art in the later-half of the 20th century and as such her work is held in all major collections nationwide. Her larger collaborative works are held in public collections across Australasia including Queensland Art Gallery (Brisbane), National Gallery of Australia (Canberra) and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Wellington). In 2013 White was made a distinguished companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and received a Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Auckland in 2012. She was named a laureate of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand in 2017.

Robin White with Ruha Fifita, 2013