Hammond_MASTER Assuming you haven’t swanned off to sun yourself in the miserable bloody New Zealand Christmas weather, dashing in and out of the rainstorms and/or hail with your bottle of BananaBoat, toweling hat, and lawnchair, then you’re probably still around Wellington.

Assuming you’ve made the right decision (and are having your hols in February), then we here at the Wellingtonista advise you to get yourself along to the City Gallery for the FREE Bill Hammond exhibition, Jingle Jangle Morning.

And why? Because even when it’s crappy out, Bill’s painting is there for you.

The trick to viewing this exhibition is to start in the smaller of the two ground-floor rooms (the one to the right). It has a lot of Hammond’s older works, and also marks the genesis of his infatuation with the distinctive bird characters that populate his paintings. In particular, you can see paintings that make fairly distinct reference to Victorian hunter and collector Sir Walter Buller, with whom Hammond seems to have developed something of an obsession.

It’s a great collection that the City Gallery have on display, particularly the three large green pieces in the main room (The Fall of Icarus, Placemakers, and Gangland). They’re gorgeously textured, lovingly rendered pieces, and to me speak volumes about Hammond’s perceptions of New Zealand society.

All of the bird series uses avian and equine iconography to characterise pre- and post-colonial societies. From the early painting of native birds laid bare and barbarised by Victorians, to later paintings in which the birds and horses (two quite different treatments in his paintings) begin to merge and blend, you can witness Hammond’s gradual movement in thought as his art develops. By the time you reach the upstairs gallery, his perceptions have shifted markedly, new types of icons are appearing, and his skill with the brush has lifted to an incredible degree.

It’s a great exhibition, and well worth the trip from your couch-with-book/TV into the city, whatever the weather.