Opening of John Badcock Exhibition - Passing People

  • Michael Cullen
Deputy Prime Minister

Speech notes for opening of New Zealand Portrait Gallery exhibition "Passing People" by John Badcock, Shed 11, Wellington Waterfront

John Badcock and family, invited guests, members of the Diplomatic Corp, Parliamentary colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure to stand before all of you plus the further 100 people who adorn these walls. And what an incredible story these people tell. 100 people from all walks of life, farmers, travelers, swimmers, nudists and even, very appropriately, Santa. These are all ordinary people, ordinary New Zealanders, but all with a truly remarkable story. I am told that three of the 100 have very sadly passed away since being painted, but such is the beauty of portraiture that their legacy has been left behind. It is an exciting prospect to be able to come to a portrait show knowing that you are going to meet so many new people; there are no celebrities and certainly no politicians in this lot.

Which is just as well as the last thing I need is another picture of me being Scrooge heading into Christmas. I live in hope that one day a cartoonist will portray me as a kindly Santa!

In John’s book he says that the constant throughout the series was the chair that everyone sat in. But it is apparent to me now as I look around this work for the first time, that the real constant is John himself. This work goes further than painting an individual it also seems to explore the relationship that John has with each and every one of them.

I see that you were born and bred a Queenstown boy John, from which I am sure that your love of the New Zealand landscape comes. But here in Wellington you are probably most renowned for your cityscapes after many appearances on Lambton Quay busily painting away. This, on the other hand, is quite a transformation in painting styles indeed. You obviously have an outstanding eye for capturing people and giving us a glimpse into their lives.

A work of these proportions requires dedication and perseverance. These are attributes that many people have, and certainly ones that all artists need. However Passing People would have required something else. An extra piece of the creative jigsaw. That is the ability to dream.

Many of us dream the impossible but so few make the impossible possible. In New Zealand we have dreamers. Kiwis that every day make the impossible possible. These people are truly inspirational.

We are blessed to live in a country that inspires such talent and encourages such dreams. After almost 30 years of painting it is obvious that your work goes from strength to strength. It is also a privilege that you are prepared to share your creations with all New Zealanders. You have continued to make a commitment to painting and it is so patently obvious that there is so much more yet to come.

I hope that as many Wellingtonians as possible make a visit to The New Zealand Portrait Gallery in Shed 11 over the next month and I wish you all the best, John, for the rest of its travels and for your future projects. I can now announce John Badcock’s Passing People officially open.