This afternoon I have been sitting down to write a wall label about New Zealand artist Don Driver’s incredible work in Te Papa’s collection Blue and green Pacific (1978). I’ve become rather hung up on a particular detail: the yellow sack in the centre. I’d dearly like to know what it might have originally been used for. Can anyone help?
I’m guessing that Driver found this sack in or around New Plymouth, where he lived, at some point in the 1970s. The words that are visible on the sack read ‘PACIFIC / P.D.V. SCREENED / GRADE V43 / THROUGH 36 MESH 425 MICRONS / CERTIFIED TO B S S 998’. I’ve been wondering if it might have held an agricultural product. Is ‘Pacific’ a brand name, or a product?
‘I really cannot explain my passion for doormats and old bags. My wife says I should see a psychiatrist.’ – Don Driver, 1979.
Why is it important to know what sort of bag Driver used in Blue and green Pacific? Well, of course, it may not be in terms of understanding or appreciating Driver’s work. However, I am intrigued by Driver’s re-use of found objects and the sorts of materials he was drawn to. For example, consider his use of ‘Huttons skin and bone meal’ sacks in another work from Te Papa’s collection… not to mention the possum skins.
It’s reasonably uncommon to find examples of contemporary New Zealand art that engage with the role that agriculture plays in New Zealand’s economy and society. Perhaps this is what gives Driver’s works some of their punch; while they are very much ‘of this place’, they reveal a side that we don’t often put on display.
Curator of contemporary art