Back and Beyond: New Zealand Painting for the Young and Curious


Gregory O'Brien

*no longer in print or in stock

‘Once again, O’Brien has proved that he’s a magician with words. If his earlier book on contemporary New Zealand art for young (and not so young), Welcome to the South Seas, was a hit, this sequel is sheer magic. His guide to our art endears itself to readers of any age with its charm, lucidity and good humour. This book doesn’t dumb down, it elevates and enthuses you for more. Many other art writers could learn much from O’Brien’s approach. Readers, meanwhile, can revel in one of the year’s best art books.’ – Christopher Moore, The Press


A painting can take you to many places. It can take you around the world, or it can take you around the country, city or neighbourhood you live in. It can also transport you back into the distant past of myths, legends and ancient history – or it can take you way into the future.

Since Māori first drew moa and mythical birds on cave walls, artists in Aotearoa New Zealand have provided an imaginative, lively account of the lives locals have been leading, the dreams they’ve been dreaming and the stories they’ve been telling. Alongside works painted during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Back and Beyond features art by contemporary painters and printmakers, all of them seasoned travellers across time and space. Angels, rugby players, whales, kiwi and canoes, moa and mountains, the bush and the beaches all play starring roles in this bird’s-eye view of New Zealand painting.

Back and Beyond is alive with real and imagined encounters, with mysteries and discoveries, and with many of the paintings that have, over the past few hundred years, broadened the horizons of the citizens, young and old, of the shaky isles.



Gregory O’Brien is an independent writer, teacher, painter, literary critic and art curator. He has written many books of poetry, fiction, essays and commentary. His recent books include A Micronaut in the Wide World: The Imaginative Life and Times of Graham Percy (2011) and the multi-award-winning introductions to art Welcome to the South Seas and Back and Beyond.


Winner of New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award: Non-Fiction Award 2009; shortlisted for Storylines Notable New Zealand Books: Non Fiction 2009 and LIANZA Children’s Book Awards: Elsie Locke Award 2009.


September 2008, 265 x 235 mm, 104 pages, colour & b/w illustrations
Hardback, ISBN 9781869404048, $34.99