Death on Hawaii, 2020

found images, paper collage mounted on Hanhemuhle
32 x 26 cm

As noted by its title, Dyson’s work ‘Death on Hawaii’ (2020) responds to Cook’s death on February 14th in 1779. The Hawaiians initially welcomed Cook and his crewmen, but as history books tell the Europeans outstayed their welcome and the trip ended violently.

John Webber, the official voyage artist, depicted this scene with Cook positioned with his back to the Hawaiians, heroically signalling to the crewmen to cease fire. Artist John Cleveley’s depiction, based on first- hand accounts and sketches from his brother, a carpenter on board the voyage, comparably shows Cook fighting for his life, a rifle in hand.

In Dyson’s recreation, Cook is out-numbered by spears. Readily sourcing material from second-hand books and vintage magazines
she says: “Collage easily enters the surreal through the endless combinations of seemingly random images to create new connections, just like in our dreams, and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of exploring these mysterious and often playful – sometimes witty – combinations.” Her work points to the complexity in deciphering fact from fiction and how narratives and perceptions can shift through shuffling a composition or adding a magenta sunset.


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