Sam Hunt, Bottle Creek
Artist Robin White and poet Sam Hunt met in 1968 when they were both 22 years old.
He was visiting Auckland to perform
at the University Arts Festival and
she had finished her Diploma of Fine
Arts at Elam and was training to be
a teacher. When Robin was offered
a job at Mana College in Porirua in
1969, Sam found her a cottage to
live in next to his at Bottle Creek
on Paremata Harbour north of
Their relationship was close, and
the following October she painted
this work, Sam Hunt, Bottle Creek
1970, the second of four major oil
portraits she made of him in seven
years. It is divided into three parts,
like the triptych format traditionally
used for altarpieces in churches.
Sam wrote several poems which
refer to Robin, including
“A White Gentian” (1971):
that mountain, six months ago?
You sat in an alpine hut
Sketching scoria, red
rusted outcrops in the snow.
I climbed some southern peak
and made up the sort of song
men climbing mountains sing:
how, no longer your lover,
I knew it was over.
I thought I’d try out my song
when I returned that evening
as though there were nothing wrong.
Instead I brought a flower down
Smelling of the mountain.
As a poet, Sam is described by
one reviewer as “a kind of Kiwi Jack
Kerouac, laconic and somewhat
gauche, whose poems or roadsongs
are direct and simple, surprised by
their own powerful emotion”. Sam is
known for his ability to recite poetry
from memory, and Robin White has
portrayed him as the lone performer
whose lyrics are deliberately
uncomplicated and colloquial like his
In May 1970 Robin first began
making silkscreen prints using
fabric dyes, stylising landscapes and
buildings into simplified forms with
strong outlines. This printmaking
technique fed back into her painting.
Sam appears in front of his home
like an actor in front of a stage set,
with foreground, midground and
background carefully measured
out into three stages of recession