Pauline Yearbury

Born 1926 in Matauri Bay, Aotearoa New Zealand
Died 1977 in Kawakawa, Bay of Islands, Aotearoa New Zealand

Jim Yearbury
Born 1922 in Hāwera, Aotearoa New Zealand
Died 2008 in Russell, Aotearoa New Zealand

Art Gallery of New South Wales

Tu Matauenga c1967–75
verso inscription:
‘Tu Matauenga was the God of war and mankind. He was constantly invoked throughout the life of man. In the baptismal rite, boys were dedicated to him and again before they took part in battle. He was an evil influence among his brother gods as well as among men.’

Tawhirimatea c1967–75
carved Rimu wood
verso inscription:
‘God of the Winds. After the separation of his parents Earth Mother and Sky Father, he followed his father and declared war on land and sea, and was victorious.’

Rongo Marae Roa c1967–75
verso inscription:
‘Rongo-Marae-Roa, God of agriculture and of cultivated foods. He was also the God of peace, and some boys were dedicated to him, as others were to the God of war. Those who worked in the cultivations were under the tapu of Rongo-Mara- Roa as they planted, weeded and harvested the crops. Ko, the digging instrument, was a long pole of a hard wood sharpened at one end and with a foot rest, often ornately carved. At the top of the pole a crescent shape indicated the importance of the moon in all agricultural pursuits.’

Warrior Slaying Taniwha c1967–75
verso inscription:
‘According to Māori mythology, the whole land was once populated by these dreadful creatures which usually took the form of giant lizards or fish and were in constant combat with man.’

How Maui Made The Sun Slow Down c1967–75
verso inscription:
‘In early times when the days were shorter and the nights were longer, Maui, legendary hero of the Māori, was able to capture the sun and thus slow its progress across the sky.’

Hinemoa & Tutanekai c1967–75
verso inscription:
‘Hinemoa was a maiden who lived on the shores of Lake Rotorua. Her lover Tutanekai lived on the lake island Mokoia and at night played his flute to guide her to his home. Hinemoa’s people beached all canoes in an attempt to prevent the lovers meeting. But Hinemoa swam the lake in darkness guided by Tutanekai’s music. After her swim she bathed in the warm pool Waikimihia (now known as Hinemoa’s pool), and was found there by Tutanekai.’
carved Rimu wood
Presentation at the 24th Biennale of Sydney was made possible with assistance from the Chartwell Charitable Trust Collection of Russell Museum Whare
Taonga o Kororāreka

An important practitioner in Māori modernist art, Pauline Yearbury was dedicated to the preservation of ancestral knowledge. In 1943, she became one of the first two Māori women to study at Elam School of Fine Art, Auckland, and would go on to spend much of her career tutoring younger artists.

In collaboration with her husband Jim Yearbury, Pauline Yearbury created incised Rimu wood panels detailing the swirling stories which constitute a rich Māori mythology, the back of each labelled with a description of the scene it depicts. From tales of love and war to the movement of the sun, Yearbury has captured the intricacies of her culture by combining traditional Māori carving with her geometricised forms.

Read more about the 24th Biennale of Sydney, Ten Thousand Suns, by purchasing the catalogue here.