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KIRK, Graham

Nationality: New Zealand
Website: Website
Born: 1948 Hawera, New Zealand
In 1991 ET visited Parliament while Batman and Robin cruised Vivian Street as a part of Graham Kirk’s “Superheroes in Wellington” exhibition. The artist had introduced such characters into his paintings some two years earlier, when Superman was seen near the landmark watertower in Kirk’s hometown of Hawera, South Taranaki. In 1992 Wonderwoman was seen on Ponsonby Road as part of “Superheroes in Auckland”, and Kirk’s third and final exhibition on this theme was in Dunedin two years later.

Although no longer his subjects, the world’s Superheroes unwittingly enabled Graham Kirk to combine two of his earliest interests. Born in 1948, he produced his first home-made comic at the age of nine. In 1960 he discovered Tintin, and in 1978 introduced Dick Sargeson, his own comic strip which would appear in the “Listener” six years later. Kirk’s comic achievements were recognized by his inclusion in the 24th World Cartoon Exhibition in Belgium in 1985. Meanwhile, he had bought his first camera on 1968, and exhibited photographs in a number of group shows during the 1970’s. He used his camera to compose images for his cartoons, and this approach led naturally to his painted portraits of comic characters in the local landscape.

After Superheroes, Kirk further developed the possibilities of juxtaposition. Mona Lisa, for example, was superimposed on the East Coast hills, while Haley’s Comet was sighted over hawera. Later, some of his foreground subjects became distinctly local; the All Blacks, for example, posing for a team photograph at Stonehenge. For such distinctive “icons” he developed his new “stamp’ format, with poet Sam Hunt and an inverted Fred Dagg both appearing in the service of postage and revenue. He has also painted images of his father, Jock Kirk, based on the latter’s own photographs taken in the Middle East during World War II.