Gregory O’Brien, born in Matamata, New Zealand, in 1961, is a Wellington-based poet and painter who has exhibited regularly at Bowen Galleries since 1990. Between 1997 and 2009 he was curator at the City Gallery, Wellington, and was responsible for exhibitions by Rosalie Gascoigne, Colin McCahon, Fiona Hall and Elizabeth Thomson, among others.
Greg has illustrated his own poetry books and has written three publications introducing art to young people: ‘Welcome to the South Seas’ (AUP, 2004), ‘Back and Beyond’ (AUP, 2008) and ‘See what I can see—New Zealand photography for the young and curious’ (AUP). Other books include ‘After Bathing at Baxter’s—Essays and Notebooks’ (VUP, 2002) and ‘News of the Swimmer Reaches Shore’ (Carcanet/VUP, 2007). His recent poetry collections are ‘Two Walk in Edinburgh’ (with photographer Mari Mahr) (2011), ‘Beauties of the Octagonal Pool’ (2012), ‘Citizen of Santiago’ (with photographs by Bruce Foster) (2013) and a new collection, ‘A Crown for the Kermadec King’, is forthcoming from AUP in 2015.
His artworks can be found on book covers in New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Holland and Russia and his poems and drawings were the basis for a winter fashion collection by Auckland designer Doris de Pont in 2006. A monograph, ‘Euan Macleod, the painter in the painting’, was published by Piper Press, Sydney in 2010. He has produced books on artists including Ralph Hotere, Graham Percy and Pat Hanly.
In May 2011, O’Brien travelled to the Kermadec Islands, north of New Zealand. His work from that project has been exhibited at Tauranga Art Gallery, Voyager—New Zealand Maritime Museum (Auckland), the New Zealand High Commission in Nuku’alofa, Tonga; and on Rapa Nui/Easter Island. The exhibition was subsequently shown at City Gallery Wellington, the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo in Santiago Chile and at the Tjibaou Cultural Centre, New Caledonia. More recently, he curated the exhibition, ‘Kermadec—lines in the ocean’, which is currently touring to 15 venues around New Zealand. He also curated ‘Kermadec—imagining an ocean sanctuary’ at the Navy Museum in Devonport (Summer 2013-–4).
In 2015 he completed work on ‘Futuna—life of a building’, co-edited with Nick Bevin (VUP, April 2016). In 2015 and 2016 O’Brien was awarded fellowships at the Stout Research Centre, Victoria University, to complete a book-length study of the environment and the imagination.
Since 2010, O’Brien has collaborated with John Pule on a suite of etchings, of which some 30 have, to date, been editioned at Michael Kempson’s Cicada Press, University of New South Wales. O’Brien has also produced collaborative works with John Reynolds and Euan Macleod. A solo exhibition, ‘Whale Years’, was at the Tauranga Art Gallery, October 2014 to February 2015, and ‘My quarrel with whales—paintings from Oceania’ was at the Waiheke Community Art Gallery in November 2015.
He is represented in the following collections: the Hocken Library, Otago University, Dunedin; the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; the University of Auckland Art Collection; Chartwell CollecGon, Eastern Southland Art Gallery; Tauranga Art Gallery; Wellington City Council;, Victoria University Art CollecGon and Tjibaou Cultural Centre, Noumea