Guy Ngan: Wainuiomata Shopping Mall, 1972

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Untitled
Medium: Acrylic
Dimensions: 1.3m³ (4ft cube)
Date: 1972
Original location: Wainuiomata Shopping Mall, 18 The Strand, Wainuiomata, Te Awakairangi Lower Hutt
Architect: Stephenson & Turner
Current location: Missing
Heritage status: None known


Having already mastered a range of paint, wood, concrete, and metal media, Guy Ngan elected, in the early 1970s, to turn his artistic hand to a new material: plastic. Wainuomata Shopping Mall became the home of his only known public sculpture in acrylic. 

In 1972, a designscape article recorded Ngan as considering himself to be ‘Playing around with plastics’, stating that he was not completely satisfied with the results.

Little is known about this work, or its fate. Please contact us if you have any information.

Guy Ngan: Eastern Hutt Roundabout, 1976

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Untitled (Worms Mating)
Medium: Concrete, paint
Dimensions: H4000mm x W3600mm x D2700mm
Date: 1976
Original location: Eastern Hutt Rd Roundabout, Stokes Valley, Te Awakairangi Lower Hutt
Architect: n/a
Current location: In situ
Heritage status: Collection of Hutt City Council [Asset No. 40247.01]


Commissioned by the Stokes Valley Jaycees,  Ngan’s sculpture was constructed by Greg Ross in 1976. Originally untitled, Ngan told the Hutt News in 2011 “I thought if I gave it a name, that’s all that people would remember. I wanted them to remember the shape.” Ngan further explained that, years after the sculpture was completed, the daughter of the family doctor said “Uncle Guy, I saw your worms mating.” He loved the description, and it stuck.*

Originally rendered in bare concrete, the sculpture has now been painted white.

A second mating worms sculpture is located at Stokes Valley’s Scott Court shopping centre shops. Titled “Elevating Worms”, and rendered in stainless steel, Ngan was commissioned by the E Tu Awakairangi Public Art Trust to create it in 2011.

*Simon Edwards, “Twin sculpture to Stokes Valley’s mating worms launched,” The Hutt News, 13 Dec 2011.

Guy Ngan: Naenae Post Office, 1959

Artist: Guy Ngan
Title: Untitled
Medium: Linoleum
Dimensions: Approx. H5400mm x W6400mm
Date: 1959
Original location: Naenae Post Office, Hillary Court, Naenae, Lower Hutt
Architect: Walter Frederic Charles Vine, with Gordon Wilson (Supervising Architect), Ministry of Works and Development
Current location: Presumed destroyed
Heritage status: No known protection


Mid-century New Zealand was marked by the end of both the depression and WWII. An urgent need for housing struck the country and inspired the government to implement a plan to construct thousands of houses. Lower Hutt was one beneficiary of the plan and several suburbs—and their respective community centres—sprung up including those of Epuni, Taita, and Naenae.

Designed by Viennese émigré architect Ernst Plischke, Naenae’s Hillary Court opened in 1954, with the Naenae Post Office as the centrepiece of what may have been New Zealand’s first pedestrianised shopping mall.

The design of the Post Office building was handled by architect Walter Frederic Charles Vine, under the supervision of Government Architect Gordon Wilson. During this time Guy Ngan was employed full-time at the Ministry of Works Architectural Division as a design consultant. In this capacity he was invited to to create a site-specific work for the main public-facing area. Hon Michael Mocham, Post Master General, laid the foundation and opening plaques. The contractor was J M Construction, and the building was officially opened on 4 December 1959.

This artwork is unique in Ngan’s oeuvre as it is the only known linoleum work he completed (most of his public murals and sculptures were constructed from concrete, aluminium, and tile); it is a colourful work (also rare for his public artworks); and it is the only known two-dimensional public artwork that Ngan made for the Hutt Valley. Linoleum was a popular mid-century flooring product, created primarily from linseed oil, albeit with traces of lead. Highly durable, it was applied in a range of commercial and domestic settings. Renowned as a thrifty creative, it is possible that Ngan made this mural from offcuts of linoleum.

The Naenae branch of the Post Office closed in 2016, however the mural had already disappeared by this time, possibly when additions, alterations, and general “redecoration throughout” occurred to the building in 1984.

NaenaePostOfficePVCFlooringMural_1959
Image: Guy Ngan, courtesy of the Ngan family

E. Mervyn Taylor: Soil Bureau, First Kumera Planting

Artist: E. Mervyn Taylor
Title: First Kumera Planting / Kia Kitea Te Waewae Tangata
Medium: Painting directly on concrete wall, using a PVA matt latex paint from Resene
Dimensions: H1850mm x W2750mm
Date: 1962
Original location: Entrance foyer, New Zealand Soil Bureau, 182 Eastern Hutt Rd, Taita, Lower Hutt
Architect: F. G. F. Shepard, Government Architect
Current location: In its original location, hidden under layers of paint
Heritage status: No known protection

In the early 1960s Government Architect F. G. F Sheppard and the Director of the New Zealand Soil Bureau commissioned E. Mervyn Taylor to create a mural for a new modernist building they were developing for the park-like grounds of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research agency in Lower Hutt.

As his subject, Taylor chose the Māori kō ceremony associated with kūmara planting, and spent many hours familiarising himself with this ritual. The painting depicts a carved stone taumata-atua (stone representation, lit. ‘resting place of the gods’) placed at the head of the plot while a cloaked rangatira (chief, high-ranking individual) performs his early morning ceremony turning the first sod with his kō (wooden implement for digging). Lined up, waiting to carry on preparing the plot, are further diggers with their kō at the ready. Other workers use the timo (wooden grubber) to further break up the soil.

As Bryan James writes: ‘Ceremonies associated with [kūmara planting] were still being performed by Maori, and Taylor spent many hours familiarising himself with tribal life and ritual. […] Nothing like these murals, where Maori featured so prominently and were given equal status with European New Zealanders, was being created in New Zealand at this time; nor had they previously been sought for large public buildings. As a contemporary remarked, Taylor could if he had wished have chosen to depict a Pakeha farmer driving a Massey Ferguson tractor; such an image would have been far more widely accepted by Pākehā as typically New Zealand. […] His knowledge, already extensive, of Maori art and tradition continued to expand and he found his reputation and standing growing in both Maori and non-Maori communities.’

In its contemporary setting, Taylor’s intent for this mural was to connect two worlds: that of the Maori horticulturist, who knew the soil resource intimately, and that of the soil scientist, whose task was to extend learning and knowledge of the soil resource for the benefit of the people.

With the restructuring of Government departments in the early 1990s the Soil Bureau was rolled into a Crown Entity. The building was tenanted by a new group and at some stage the mural was painted over. This was confirmed when conservators from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa examined and tested paint samples from the wall in 2016. While removing the paint to uncover the mural was not possible at this point in time, technological advances may enable it to be uncovered in the future.

Pictorial Parade No. 128: Hutt Science – Patron of the arts, features footage of E. Mervyn Taylor at work on a mural (National Film Unit footage):

In April 2016 the E. Mervyn Taylor Mural Search & Recovery Project team visited the former site of the Taita Soil Bureau with paint conservators Linda Waters and Tijana Cvetkovic from Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand.

The conservators used infra-red technology to scan the wall on which Taylor’s mural was painted, hoping to find traces of the work. A paint sample was also taken, and later analysis has revealed promising signs that the mural is still there, hidden under layers of whitewash.

Callum Davies and Max Schleser made a short video of the visit. Callum is a former student, and Max a former Senior Lecturer, at Massey’s Te Rewa O Puanga – the School of Music and Creative Media Production. View the video below:

The team revisited the site in October 2016, and Lynn Freeman of Radio New Zealand National. The building is now home to The Learning Connexion Art School and TLC had kindly moved some large display cabinets to allow us to access the full wall where the mural was once visible.

Lynn Freeman recorded the experience: listen to it here.

Linda Waters has also written two blog posts giving detail around some of the techniques used in hunting for the mural. The second post explains that the mural is unlikely to be recoverable with present-day paint removal technologies: