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James Ormsby

James Ormsby (b.1957) is of Ngāti Maniapoto, Tainui, Te Arawa and Scottish descent. He has become well known for his intricate large-scale pencil drawings. Influenced by various cultural histories Ormsby has created an indigenous cartography. Mapping a diverse collection of motifs, symbols and iconography he explores issues of whenua, whakapapa and personal belief systems.

Ormsby is a recognised national artist who has over 20 years of Visual Art practice in New Zealand & overseas including 20 solo shows and over 80 group exhibitions. He has received two major Creative NZ Grants for practice-based research at University of Oxford (UK), and resulting exhibitions in London, Melbourne and Auckland.

Ormsby has a “Bachelor of Education (Visual Art)”(The University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1990), and a “Master of Fine Art” (The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, Victoria, Australia (2002). Upon returning to New Zealand he was commissioned to paint AUT’s Wharenui (meeting house) and the ceiling design and artwork for the RNZ Navy Wharenui. His work can be found in numerous collections including: Te Papa Tongawera, The Wallace Trust Art Collection, Auckland City Art Collection, The Waikato Museum of Art and History, The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand, The University of Melbourne, (Victoria, Australia), and private collections throughout New Zealand and overseas including The Benetton Collection (Geneva, Switzerland).

Drawing is a passion for James Ormsby. He describes it as his first language in an era when artists are increasingly experimenting with new technology. He carries out a huge amount of historical research and questions the significance of the visual symbols his ancestors chose to depict.

He has been a finalist in both the National Contemporary Art Awards, the Wallace Art Awards as well as the New Zealand Painting and Printmaking Awards. 

Recent solo exhibitions include James Ormsby, Whakapapa, PATAKA Museum and Art Gallery, 2017 and James Ormsby, TU: a place to stand, Tauranga Art Gallery, 2018.

Ormsby lives and works from his family home in the Bay of Plenty.