Pat Hanly - New Zealand Herald Obituary

Photo: by Brett Phibbs.

"Patrick Hanly, who died this week [September 2004] after a long illness, was one of the finest artists of his generation.

For a long time New Zealand artists of talent had fled to Europe and stayed there. Then some were kept here by the war. Then came those who left New Zealand, absorbed what Europe had to offer and returned. Pat Hanly was one of a lively group of artists who were together at Ilam School of Art in Christchurch.Impatient and energetic, he left before he graduated and went with his wife to England, working in London, Holland and Italy.

When he returned to New Zealand in 1962 he was struck by the bright clear light. His Damascus Road was a summer day on Torbay beach. His first paintings back here were called Figures in Light and their bright, flat colour and sharp outline defined for many how New Zealand painting should be.

His work was much more than a style. He was a humanist. There had to be an emotional element. When he painted an almost abstract series about the Pacific light he decided they were too abstract, too unemotional and, although they were admired, he destroyed all he could lay his hands on.

In search of direct expression without any tricks of style he cleared his eye and his hand by briefly painting in complete darkness. What followed was acute perception of the vibrant life which imbued all living things.To express what he saw he developed a special way of working that was part action painting and part tight form.Out of this emerged beautiful paintings of gardens and still lifes where the power streamed from flowers and figure studies that were filled with energy inside severe outlines.

His inventiveness extended to his many lovely prints, some made by methods all his own and others done in conventional techniques. In a gesture typical of his intense self-criticism, he destroyed a complete run of one work he did with the Muka Print Studio because he felt it was not right.

His paintings became the icons of many causes. The black shape of the atomic submarine Pintado surrounded by a swirl of colourful protest expressed anti-nuclear feeling.

He had been out in his own boat and he loved sailing.

His icons extended to such things as covers for the Primary School Syllabus put out by the Department of Education.

They showed his generalised but lovely child figure pointing upward to the eye of knowledge set in the heart of love.

Everything that Pat Hanly did had a kind of innocence that came from his sincerity in life and art. He embraced all things and gave other artists courage to be themselves.

His work was wonderful and his personality was influential. He has a very important place in art in New Zealand. He enhanced life in these islands.

He is survived by his wife, Gil, herself an important photographer, and his children, Ben, Tamsin and Amber, and grandchildren."

Obituary in the New Zealand Herald, Saturday, 25 September, 2004  by T. J. McNamara