The threat of nuclear holocaust and the need for action to remove that threat is the theme which underlies Pat's paintings and Gil’s photographs. The Hanly’s consciousness of this threat first crystallized in 1959 when they were living in London. They joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and participated in protests at the installation of the first nuclear power station in Britain.
The same year Pat saw an exhibition of Marc Chagall's work in Paris and was impressed by Chagall’s handling of the human figure, his use of colour and his poetic perception. These two experiences prompted a large group of paintings and drawings called the Fire Series, some of which are shown here.
In these works Hanly follows the theme of fire from the Old Testament destruction of Sodom, through the Great Fire of London to the nuclear firestorm that is now a real possibility. He used recurring symbols of a house, a tree, a boat, and a mushroom cloud to explore this theme. In recent months Pat has reinterpreted these symbols in paintings which look at the Nuclear threat from a Pacific perspective.
Gil’s 46 black and white photographs are concerned with the peace action movement in the 1980’s, revealing the multi-faceted character of demonstrations, specifically in Auckland where she lives. She includes the young and old, the famous and the general crowd, side-shows of street theatre, and contemplative small reactionary groups. Often the groups’ participants are unaware that their moods of pathos, compassion, humour and irony have been photographed. At all times the carefully selected backgrounds echo the particular character of the situation. In this series Gil is following traditions of social documentary photography practiced by such names as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Margaret Bourke-White, and others.
Pat and Gil are aware that political provocation and protest in works of art is not enough to change events, but it can be a spur to action and prompt new ways of thinking.
→ Patrick & Gil Hanly: The Fire This Time, 1987, exhibition card