A lost 65-year-old mural brought back to life in Naenae

Guy Ngan Naenae Mural banner image

Published: 1 May 2024

Sixty-five years after an artwork by celebrated Kiwi artist Guy Ngan became the first mural installed in a New Zealand Post Office, it’s been re-created as part of the soon-to-be-opened Naenae Community Centre.

The former Post Office in Naenae’s Hillary Court will be home to the new centre which is scheduled to open in May.

The original mural – the only time Ngan was known to use Linoleum in his art – was commissioned for the opening of the Post Office in 1959. It provided a striking artistic focal point in the customer service area, which also featured a wooden counter and elegant pendant lights.

It’s thought the original mural was obliterated during a 1980s renovation. When the wall was uncovered, outlines of the removed linoleum provided a ghostly template for the re-creation.

The updated work uses Autex acoustic panels, faithfully recreating the colours, dimensions, and position of the original.

Guy’s wife Jean and daughter Liz got a preview of the partially completed mural and were delighted with what they saw.

“I was blown away by the recreation,” says Liz. “HDT architects have got everything spot on. I love how they’ve used Autex which is a building material Dad was very fond of… it’s entirely appropriate for the space and brings a liveliness to the environment.”

Mayor Campbell Barry says bringing the mural back to life after 65 years will add a special piece of magic to the Naenae Community Centre.

“Having a mural based on the original work by Guy Ngan is historically significant. It links the new facility with one of Lower Hutt’s most important artists and will be enjoyed for years to come by those who use the centre.”

The mural is the only known two-dimensional public artwork that Ngan made for the Hutt Valley.  His other public sculptures in Lower Hutt are the concrete ‘Mating Worms’ on the Stokes Valley roundabout, and the stainless steel ‘Elevating Worms’ sculpture at Stokes Valley’s Scott Court Shopping Centre.

Ngan was employed as a design consultant for the Ministry of Works in the 1950s where he designed sculptures and murals for several government buildings. He continued this work in the 1960s and 1970s with architecture firm Stephenson and Turner.

His impressive artistic legacy includes more than 40 works of public art in Aotearoa. He also designed the recently restored wall hanging ’Forest in the Sun’ which was commissioned from Stokes Valley weaver Joan Calvert for the Beehive’s opening, has sold a prolific number of works to private and public collections around the globe, and was the Director of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts from 1976-1986.

In 1983, Ngan was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to the arts.