Reproduced from Stuff article published November 23rd, 2023
Stunning works by a self-taught Taranaki artist and Tui ora kaimahi might have never been seen in public if his wife hadn’t given him an ultimatum to show his work or put the brush down for good.
Bruce Jackson, who calls painting his quiet obsession, was never going to stop painting, so the 63-year-old cleared about 40 large-scale works out of the sleepout he had commandeered to store them and put them up for exhibition.
“I always just painted and put them aside,” Jackson said.
“I came to painting pretty late in life, picking up a brush for the first time in 2007 when I was 47.”
Jackson’s exhibition Tales from the Māoriland: The Scouting Party is on at Kingsroy gallery in New Plymouth.
They are large paintings – the biggest is 1.5m by 1.6m – and they fill the walls of the gallery. Prices for one of his pieces range from $5000 to $10,000.
The series of paintings looks at the relationships within civil wars and feature stylised New Zealand landscapes, angels, blossoming trees, waka, and colonial militia.
Māoriland, was a term used by Pākehā in the colonial period as an advertorial slogan.
Jackson said Māoriland misrepresented Aotearoa as a place of racial harmoniousness where both Pākehā and Māori lived at ease under a colonial government; however, the paintings in his series signal otherwise.
“I’ve always painted archangels and in early colonial paintings New Zealand was seen as being a garden of Eden, so I painted archangels in the garden of Eden, these enchanted landscapes.”
Jackson has never had an art lesson, it’s just always been something he’s wanted to do.
Both his sons are artists, so they helped him get the exhibition organised and it’s the first time Jackson has seen all the pieces together on the wall.
“I’m still trying to figure out what to make of it.”
At 47, picking up a paint brush for the first time and at 63, putting on his first exhibition, Jackson said he was an example of “it’s never too late”.
“You can do anything.”
Luella Raj, owner of Kingsroy Gallery, said it was a privilege to show Jackson’s work to the world, and she couldn’t believe he’d kept it hidden.
“Not only are these works significant to our shared history and culture, but they showcase the unique and extraordinary talent of Bruce Jackson as a visual narrator and artist.
“This will be the first time any of his work has left his private studio, and I am honoured to dedicate the closing months of this year to an extended showing of the collection".