The Role Graphic Design Played in Inspiring Some of New Zealand’s Best Art (and Vice Versa)

Side A, Side B print by Dick Frizzell – Graphic Design and Fine Art in New Zealand

Graphic design is often described as a form of art used to convey a specific message, primarily created for commercial purposes. There is now a huge graphic design culture in New Zealand, spanning back to the first graphic designers of the 1930s who began their training in technical colleges from as young as twelve years old.

From the first print advertisements, tourism posters, and art deco prints, right up to the brands we see as we walk through the shops of Ponsonby or Lambton Quay today, graphic design is a huge part of our culture and history. But how has the graphical genre played a part in this country’s fine art history? When did the two professions intertwine and how did this affect the art scene? Here, we aim to bridge the connections between graphic design and fine art in New Zealand.

Early Graphic Art


NZ Graphic Art Poster "Mountain Daisy"
If we look back at early graphic design in New Zealand in the 1930s, much of it was influenced by the small yet powerful connection we had with the rest of the world. 

By the1960s, advertising was booming. This was the ‘Mad Men’ era of the Volkswagen Beetle and Lucky Strike Tobacco. The iconography and mixtures of type, illustration, and even some photography in these campaigns trickled down to the New Zealand industry where some of our first graphic designers were finding their feet. 

But what did we have to advertise? We may not have had any major global brands to make ads for back then, but we had a growing tourism industry, and plenty of places to sell to the rest of the world. 

Our tourism posters from the 1930s onward reflect graphical practices while being pieces of art on their own. Their art deco and pop art style blur the lines between graphic design and art, cemented by their bold use of signwriting. 

Type as Expression


As modernist art grew in popularity around the world, New Zealand artists began to develop their own expressionist style that is uniquely Kiwi. 

Colin McCahon played a huge part in defining this style, as he moved away from nationalist landscape art towards unique letterforms and figurative, graphic art. Through the medium of paint, McCahon revolutionised the way designers were using typography, and opened letters up as expressionist forms.

Print of Colin McCahon's painting "As there is a constant flow of light"

Many Kiwi painters took inspiration from this, most famously Dick Frizzell, and those iconic paint-stroke letterforms became a uniquely kiwi ‘typeface’ in their own right.  This writer was tempted to buy McCahon's letterbox when it came up for auction a few years back, for it was numbered in McCahon's distinctive writing!

Now, as our graphic design industry propels itself onto the world stage, type foundries such as Klim use the medium of type to extend graphic design into an art form of its own. The concept of type as expression has come full circle. Klim has held art exhibitions displaying typefaces, such as ‘There is No Such Thing as a New Zealand Typeface’ and has even featured in Erik Brandt’s global interventionist experiment ‘Ficciones Typographika’. 

Although the digital age has allowed us to use type in more than just hand-painted letterforms, we continue to return to the expressionist phase of typography that originally held so much power. 

Revolutionary Practices


As late capitalism grew in sophistication, and branding becoming a more graphic style, so too rose the opportunity for artists to create expressionist work that reacted to the world around them. As an example, Andy Warhol explored the lines between artistic expression and advertising with his heavily branded, pop art pieces. 

Braeburn - hand lettered graphic style print by Dick Frizzell
Dick Frizzell sign written letter style print
Many artists in New Zealand adapted a similar style at the time with our Kiwiana iconography. Dick Frizzell was a leader in this genre, with his Four Square Man interpretations that so heavily blurred the lines between branding and artistic flair.

Today, there are a growing number of contemporary artists (Glenn Jones and Hamish Allan, to name a couple) who take inspiration from Dick Frizzell, creating modern, fine art giclee prints juxtaposed with a similar nostalgic style. And really, why wouldn’t they? Art is often a reflection of the world around us. 

New Zealand art is both nostalgic for brands of yesteryear and is growing our current ones at such a fast pace. It seems that where art often took inspiration from graphic design; now, it is a medium of contrast—to rebel against it. Have we had too much of a good thing? Or are we just nostalgic for a simpler time?

Graphic art Available at New Zealand Fine Prints

No matter where you stand on the spectrum of design versus art, there is no doubt that some of the country’s best works were influenced by a creative community that worked together. You can get yourself a piece of this history with one of the many modern art posters available at New Zealand Fine Prints. Shop online today!

Art Prints for the Quintessential Kiwi Bach | New Zealand Fine Prints

5 Art Prints for the quintessential Kiwi Bach

Baches Print by Barry Ross Smith

By now we can all be in agreement that Kiwiana is not just a passing fad but an enduring and evolving genre that is here for the long term. And beyond the hallways of trend-setting Auckland bungalows is a huge space for Kiwiana as soon as we step out of the cities—at the quintessential kiwi bach.

From the Bay of Islands to Queenstown, New Zealand is coast-to-coast full of seaside, lakeside, and just out of the wayside towns, and everybody knows somebody who’s got a bach at one of these many picturesque spots around Aotearoa. The bach itself is as much a part of Kiwi culture as the framed wall art we associate so significantly with them, so today, we’ll explore the perfect posters to hang in everyone’s perfect bach.

A Kiwi Character

Dick Frizzell "A Lad Insane"
You know the face, with those forever-raised eyebrows and round, button nose. Never without his apron or his thumb plastered high in the air. It’s the Four Square Man! 

He’s an iconic figure on a huge range of Kiwi prints. But what makes him just so synonymous with beach towns and bach life if not for the fact that there’s at least one of the grocery franchises positioned strategically among every single small town across the country?

The Four Square Man was originally designed by the Foodstuffs advertising department in the 1950s. He’s been through quite a few development stages to get to where he is now, and in fact was only initially supposed to be a part of the few newspaper ads the brand was running at the time. The character really ingrained itself into Kiwi culture when famous Kiwiana artist Dick Frizzell began to incorporate him in many of his prints. In fact, much of the Four Square Man art that we see today are variations of Frizzell’s work.

A Stunning Landscape

Rangitoto from Takapuna by Alison Gilmour
Of course, there’s an art print for every bach. So even those who aren’t so much into our iconic characters can appreciate the side of Kiwiana that celebrates our natural landscapes, whether it’s the rolling hills of our lush farmland, or a turquoise coastline complete with pohutukawa silhouette in the foreground.

We have such a beautiful country, and quite few talented artists who are immortalising its settings, so why not hang one of their landscape prints proudly at your holiday home?

Some Flora and Fauna

Tui & Kakabeak by Holly Roach
Floral designs are a great way to bring a piece of the outdoors in and really tie a space together. Plus, they bring a pop of colour that’s cheerful and inspiring.

New Zealand botanical prints look great in any bach because often they will mirror the natives that line the surrounding beaches, streets and forests of your special holiday places.

From a classic fern to a cheerful kowhai, you’ll have so much to choose from that you’re sure to find the perfect botanical poster for your humble (or not so humble) bach.






Cultural Kiwiana Icons

Kiwiana artist Matt Guild's "A tip?"
Kiwiana is symbolised by our many icons. Every kiwi recognises these! Some find it brings nostalgia for their childhood, and the rest of us just know them from their many appearances in the media, in stories and in physical, giant-sized forms. 

What’s exciting about our contemporary artists, is that many of them take these classic Kiwiana icons and put their own flair on them, creating a print that is both nostalgic and modern. There are lots of different styles of Kiwiana art prints these days, no longer restricted to recycling or remixing mid-century commercial iconography. Consider a hyperrealist print by painter Matt Guild, or the cheerful posters in bold colours that Glenn Jones offers.






Something A Bit Touristy

Marlborough Sounds Vintage Poster
Us kiwis are always finding hidden hideaways and exploring new territory, so it’s definitely not out of the ordinary for us to be tourists in our own country. So, why not embrace the tourist?

Tourism art is a staple across western culture, and there’s been an excellent collection of the genre coming right from our back doorstep.

Have a look and see if you can’t find a vintage tourist poster from your very own bach heaven. It can be truly special to frame a piece of history in your holiday spot.








Art Prints for Every Kiwi Bach

Next time you’re looking for more art for your bach to hang alongside the nigh on obligatory New Zealand map poster, there are lots more to choose from than you’d expect! Here at New Zealand Fine Prints, you can browse all the posters and prints you can imagine. Shop online today!

Xmas Mailing Dates NZ 2019

Christmas day in 2019 falls on a Wednesday.  This is pretty much ideal for delivering last minute Xmas gifts as online retailers like New Zealand Fine Prints can overnight orders made over that last weekend before Xmas day and they will still be delivered to NZ addresses on time.

So this year New Zealand Fine Prints' cut off date for NZ wide delivery by Xmas day is Monday 23rd December, for delivery to a rural address (RD) please order by Friday 20 Dec.

Official mailing dates are below, these apply to our standard delivery service. There may be other delivery options available outside of our standard service/pricing so if you think you are running out of time please call us on 0800 800 278 in the lead up to Xmas, we should be able to work something out for you.

NZ Fine Prints Christmas Mailing Dates for 2019 are as follows:

Delivery worldwide at our standard rate of just $NZ15 (for any number of prints):

Australia

Please order your gifts by Wednesday 4th December 2019

UK & Europe, East Asia, North America & South Pacific

Please order your gifts by Monday 2 December 2019

Rest of World

Order gifts for Xmas delivery by Friday 27th November 2019

Xmas Delivery to NZ Addresses

Standard Delivery for $NZ6 (for any number of prints)

We need to have your orders for prints being delivered as gifts for Xmas by 3pm Friday 20th December 2019

Deadline for next day courier delivery via CourierPost with guaranteed delivery for Xmas day is 3pm Monday 23rd December 2019

Framed Prints - please order 10 working days before these mailing dates to ensure we can deliver by Christmas.

Gift Vouchers


NZ Prints also deliver gift vouchers by mail to NZ addresses if ordered by 23rd December - and email gift vouchers are even being purchased on Xmas day itself and delivered instantly around the world. Now that is last second Christmas shopping!

Shipping & Delivery Updates


As we get closer to Xmas we will update any delays or known issues with Xmas delivery on our shipping & delivery page.

Vintage Map Series - "Tourist Map of NZ" in stock today

Vintage Tourist Map of NZ
This print on canvas is the latest release in the series of genuine vintage tourist poster designs re-printed as a ready to hang canvas print in what we are calling the "Wall Chart" style - with wooden hangers top and bottom.

Re-published today is the splendid mid-century "Tourist Map of New Zealand" with a scale of 34 miles to an inch.

Truly delightful as the cities and towns are not shown in sizes relative to their commercial importance but from the traveller's interest!  So much detail to discover, with insets covering "Rotorua Tourist Routes", "The Taupo Fisheries", "Lake Wanaka and Vicinity" and "Alpine Regions in the vicinity of Mt Cook".

Arranged and drawn at the Headquarters of the Lands & Survey Department, Wellington New Zealand - for the NZ Government Tourism Department, CWM Royel delt 1946 [drawn by CWM Royel].

Particularly lovely are the four different kowhaiwhai borders, a kowhai Ngutukaka pattern along the bottom (the Pointed Flower of the Red Kowhai), on the left hand side "A well known East Coast and Rotorua Design - a conventionalised Patiki or Flat-Fish".  At the top is the "Ngaru Moana portraying the Rolling Waves of the Sea" and on the right hand side the "Arawa version of the Mangopare (Hammerhead Shark).

Printed directly onto canvas with quality wooden hangers at top and bottom, vintage NZ wall art that is ready to hang out of the box in the classic wall chart style.  Available now, $NZ 119.95 - delivered NZ wide for $NZ6, around the world for $NZ15.

Sofia Minson "Blessing the Pharaoh" Print Launch

Artist Sofia Minson
A new print from Auckland artist Sofia Minson was launched today.  It is called "Blessing the Pharaoh" - and from 4pm this afternoon it is available to buy from New Zealand Fine Prints.  To accompany its launch we have been given a superb set of resources about the new artwork, there is a very interesting story of the paintings origins, symbolism and meanings on the listing in our catalogue as well as the video about the making of "Blessing the Pharaoh", a link to which is posted below.

Sofia says "I am drawn to the ever-unfolding wisdom and links between Maori and Egyptian myths, which demonstrate principles of nature in the form of gods and goddesses. Here we weave a new cross-cultural story, yet it is an eternally old one about the transformation of consciousness.”

New Limited Edition Print "Blessing the Pharaoh"
A brief summary of the new work:

● Blessing the Pharaoh is based on the statue in the Cairo Museum of Horus and Seth
blessing the Pharaoh Ramesses III.
● The central figure of the painting embodies atua wahine - divine feminine lunar energy
and is seen as Hine-nui-te-pō, the goddess at the threshold of life and death in Maori
cosmology.
● The image reflects on our human archetypal story of inner sight unifying left and right
brain ways of thinking. The alchemical image ushers in a new state of being where left
brain logic does not rule over right brain holistic thinking, but a higher union of the two is
established.

And as Sofia says, “Before the painter makes their first mark, the blank canvas stares back at them in challenge.”