June 05, 2014
Kowhaiwhai modernist John Hovell dies
Artist John Hovell, a Maori modernist who transformed the traditional art of kowhaiwhai, has died at the age of 76.
Hovell, from Ngati Porou and Ngapuhi, was born in Whitianga and grew up at Harataunga or Kennedy Bay on the Coromandel Peninsula.
He attended Kennedy Bay Native School and Mt. Albert Grammar before completing a BA from Auckland University in English Literature, classical languages, ancient history and anthropology.
In 1965 he did an intensive one-year course at Hamilton Teacher Training College where he met artist Para Matchitt and painter May Smith.
That led to an engagement with the contemporary Maori art movement, and his work embraced not just painting but kowhaiwhai and murals for marae projects in Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula and the East Coast.
He often worked closely with another Kennedy Bay identity, master carver Pakariki Harrison.
He taught in Coromandel, Te Araroa, Te Aute, Rarotonga and for 11 years in the Solomon Islands.
His brother Colin Hovell says John Hovell died on Wednesday morning at 4am after a long battle with cancer, with instructions he be cremated without a service and his ashes buried at the family plot in Coromandel.
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