Road to Jerusalem

Nigel Brown, Artist

This is one of the paintings in our collection. It was made in Whanganui, Whanganui Region, New Zealand in 1993.
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Object Detail

About the Work
This work was not in Sarjeant Wanganui/Whanganui show at end of my residency but was finished later I think. Not in any of my survey shows and not sure [if] exhibited later. The Mother Aubert figure featured in several paintings in a dealer show later in Wellington.
I used the Koriniti entrance gate to bind the work together. The early nineties were a time of trips out of Auckland. A residency in Wanganui as it was then called and another residency in the Hawkes Bay via Jacob Scott plus Sue and I travelling to Tolaga Bay meant new cross cultural subject matter.
This was partly a reaction to my first monograph by Gregory O'Brien which I found a little monocultural. It wasn't a time to be comfortable with Māori subject matter because of issues looming, limitations in my own knowledge, the colonial baggage and so on. I approached it all as a search and learning experience.
Regrding Baxter (Hemi) I had a strong interest in his work and saw him as going on a journey useful to Identity in Aotearoa. Not being religious myself I saw him as a spiritual symbol of power. The Catholic aspect was not my main interest.
My father R.F Brown, a poet had introduced me to Baxter's poetry. I was deeply affected by Baxter reading his poem "Ballad of Suygar Gutts" in the Elam common room. When I lived out Titiranga Baxter was about to be brought to visit me by my neighbour Maurice Shardbolt when Baxter died suddenly. I painted the Driveway series in 1974 with Baxter in many of the works as an outsider.
Later in the 1970s I painted "The Poet as Christ" series with Baxter crucified. A large Baxter Triptych entered the Fletcher Challenge collection. A tht Last and First cafe in Auckland I painted a large Baxter work on loose canvas called "Get My Meaning". My Baxter works have featured on most publications by Victoria Press, His Collected Works, Letter and critical essays on him. Some iamges have ended up in overseas publications.
In Road to Jerusalem Baxter has his back to viewer contemplating the bush. This is somewhat at odds with views expressed in his work where "the tired faces in the pub" are seen as more relevant. There are a man and oman in the work representing everyone. I use Baxter to my own ends.
I'm fully aware of contradictions in Baxter and have known he was exploiting his guru status for sex with young vulnerable admirers. The recent letter published about raping his wife was a shock.
My Baxter is inevitably linked to the original Baxter but is also a free floating poet symbol and antagonist in his own right. Most of my work reinvents Baxter as the hairy man of more ancient times. In my hands he is an environmentalist, god, fool and social question mark.
Some comparison could possibly be made with Sydney Nolan's use of Ned Kelly. The historical facts get transferred and distorted by autobiography and the artist's own quest. I don't think the painting makes sense in terms of facts, tribal or religious priorities or as a record. The painting is about the journey, the total mix of things seen and unseen, woven together.
- Nigel Brown, May 2019
Frame 683 x 2410 mm
oil on canvas
Painting constructed of 5 canvases side-by-side and framed as one large horizontal work. Carved archway across the entire work with a tui bird at the top centre. central figure is James K Baxter, with the nun Mother Mary Aubert at the right hand panel with the Jerusalem church building. Other panels include the Whanganui River with cliffs and the road to Jerusalem in the first panel.
Credit Line
Collection of the Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua Whanganui. Gift of Nigel Brown and Sue McLaughlin, 2019
Collection Type
Permanent collection
Acquisition Date
21 May 2019



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