Living Large No. 5

Bill Hammond, Artist

This is one of the paintings in our collection. It was made in New Zealand in 1995.
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Object Detail

About the Work
“Bill Hammond, recently deceased, is probably my favourite New Zealand artist. I am particularly intrigued by his strangely ghost like birds, who stand like sentinels guarding and judging. I think this work in the Sarjeant Collection is superb. However, the green hues that are represented in many of his bird paintings really capture my eye.

I remember attending a wonderful event in the Christchurch Art Gallery back in 2007. Footnote Dance Company made an agonisingly beautiful performance in the Gallery surrounded by Bill’s birds. I was memorised by their presence and the sad beauty of the dance. The birds are a statement about the dreadful tragedy of the extinction of so many species of birds that were indigenous to Aotearoa NZ. Sir Walter Buller was instrumental in the mass killing of these birds which were then shipped to Great Britain to meet the desire of wealthy people to collect dead things from exotic places.”
- Nicola Williams MNZM, Chairman of the Sarjeant Gallery Trust Board, for the July 2021 instalment of the My Choice exhibition series.

In 1989 Bill Hammond and Laurence Aberhart travelled to the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands south of Bluff. Their destination was Enderby Island which was once used as a whaling station. Getting to the island was a challenging experience in stormy weather and it took two attempts. In conversation with Gregory O’Brien in 1996, Hammond described the island as a ‘birdland’ – a paradise free from predators. ‘You feel like a time-traveller, as if you have just stumbled upon it – primeval forests, ratas like Walt Disney would make. It’s a beautiful place, but it’s also full of ghosts, shipwrecks and death’. (1) Living Large No 5 is one of Hammond’s many paintings that are occupied by his distinctive otherworldly bird figures. They stand sentinel - seemingly on guard, waiting, looking out to their watery interior world. Woven in with Hammond’s ‘birdland’ is his ongoing conversation with the deeds of the Victorian ornithologist and lawyer Sir Walter Lawry Buller (1838-1906), who was responsible for the killing and trading of thousands of rare New Zealand birds.
(1) Cited in Bill Hammond: Jingle Jangle Moring published by Te Puna o Waiwhetū Christchurch Art Gallery, 2007. p25
- Greg Donson, exhibition text 'Together Alone. Works from the collection exploring human connections in a post-lockdown world' 27 June 2020 - 8 November 2020.
Image 1730 x 1900mm
Support 2040 x 2100mm
acrylic on unstretched linen
Part of the Living Large series. The birds in this series are seen playing musical instruments. Here the bird is playing the harp, in Living Large 6, Christchurch Art Gallery, it is a cello. In this series he uses an inky black palette, in contrast to his signature emerald green and gold. The series references Hammond's time in the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands and ornithologist Sir Walter Buller.
Credit Line
Collection of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui. Purchased, 1995
Collection Type
Permanent collection
Acquisition Date
09 Jul 1996



Accession Number:

Part of 1 highlight set