Lester Hall is one of NZ's most politically aware artists. Hall first systematically investigated the themes of Maori/Pakeha relations and history in his early 2000s "Hoaries and Whities" series but it is his development of these ideas into his "Aoteroaland" series that has seen him become one of the highest profile contemporary printmakers in NZ.
In Aotearoaland, Lester says, "a "third space" is created, outside the dogmatic stupidity and hypocrisy of exclusively Maori or Euro frameworks and a blended outcome is searched for. Not sameness but unity and identity. I believe the idea of separate development is outrageous controlling of outcome for individuals who otherwise would make fine lives for themselves in a culturally hybrid frame of reference." Hall thinks that we have been slack in mining our own countries rich historical past for heros and and legends, chiefs such as Hongi Hika who was a "master strategist, a highly intelligent man, a brilliant commander, a desperado…it's exciting real Boys Own adventure stuff. But were we told stories about him? No, we were told stories about Geronimo and General Custer" (interview with the Northern Advocate Feb 2010).He has been accurately described by Northland's Stingray magazine as an "artist provocateur", they quoted Hall saying "The old myths of popular New Zealand history need to be aired and flung out as silly and not realistic". He says "The artworks are my map into my subconscious and back out through the historical narrative that lies just beneath the veneer of our daily life."
Lester Hall's prints have caused controversy over the use of Maori images (similar to the debate about Goldie paintings being reproduced as prints - see our previous article on the ongoing Goldie prints controversy) and exhibitions have attracted letters of complaint and accusations of being offensive. However Hall's art is not always shocking or provocative, as he says he "sometimes paints tough ideas in pretty colours in an attempt to bring more and more Pakeha Kiwis especially, to the scary conversation of who we all are." Hall's kiwiana prints like the popular "Miss Kiwiana" are much lighter in tone than some of his more radical artworks.
Hall paints and makes prints from his house/studio in the Far North, a large corrugated iron shed with an apartment like interior that has featured in interior design magazines.