Untitled [Sheet of sketches for decimal currency]
James Johnstone, Graphite, pen and ink on paper, c. 1966. UC/MBL/2138
When New Zealand’s currency changed to the decimal system in 1967, it seemed fitting that new coin designs would be created to commemorate the occasion. Artists were invited to submit their designs for consideration, with both the public and the committee able to view and vote upon those shortlisted. Though Johnstone’s designs were not chosen, they were not viewed unfavourably either. This sheet of preliminary sketches is particularly interesting, as it incorporates Māori kowhaiwhai patterns. Johnstone had become interested in these traditional designs upon his move to New Zealand, and often incorporated them in chalices and patens he created for commissions throughout the country. The most resolved design on this particular page is that intended for the fifty-cent coin, which shows the numerals surrounded by a circle of interlocking kowhaiwhai koru, which are precisely outlined in near-perfect symmetry. To the right of the fifty-cent design is one not featuring kowhaiwhai patterns, but instead a New Zealand native plant – the pohutakawa – and stars in the shape of the Southern Cross.
James Johnstone : A selection of artworks
Click on the thumbnails to discover more about this striking selection of artworks by James Johnstone. Images selected and written about by Alice Tappenden.