Don Binney: Flight Path

Greg O'Brien

Author: Gregory O'Brien
Format: Hardback
Published: 19 October 2023
Pages: 400
Specs: 29.0cm x 24.0cm
ISBN: 9781869409661


A richly illustrated account of the life and work of one of New Zealand’s most iconic artists.

Painter, printmaker, teacher, writer and ornithologist, Don Binney (1940–2012) was a mercurial presence on the New Zealand cultural scene from the time of his meteoric rise to fame in the early 1960s. His unmistakable, stylised depictions of birds have come to define an era in the development of the nation’s art. Don Binney: Flight Path follows the painter from Te Henga / Bethells Beach – his artistic tūrangawaewae – through his years of wandering not only the length of Aotearoa but as far afield as Latin America and Europe.

Drawing extensively on Binney’s letters, journals and other writings, award-winning author and curator Gregory O’Brien takes us into the world of this gifted but paradoxical artist. Richly illustrated with Binney’s paintings, drawings and prints – alongside photographs and documentary materials – this is the first full-length monograph on one of New Zealand’s most important twentieth-century artists.



Gregory O’Brien is a writer, painter and art curator. Alongside his poetry and painting, he has written major books on New Zealand art and artists including Lands and Deeds: Profiles of Contemporary New Zealand Painters (Godwit Publishing, 1996), A Micronaut in the Wide World: The Imaginative Life and Times of Graham Percy (Auckland University Press, 2011) and as co-editor Parihaka: The Art of Passive Resistance (Victoria University Press, 2005). O’Brien is also author of the multi-award-winning introductions to art for the young and curious: Welcome to the South Seas (Auckland University Press, 2004) and Back and Beyond (Auckland University Press, 2008), which both won the Non-Fiction Prize at the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. As a writer, curator and contributing artist, O’Brien was involved in the Kermadec art exhibition, which travelled around New Zealand and the wider Pacific between 2012 and 2016. His book Always Song in the Water (Auckland University Press, 2019) is the basis for a major exhibition at the New Zealand Maritime Museum, Auckland. Gregory O’Brien became an Arts Foundation Laureate and won the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in 2012, and in 2017 became a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit and received an honorary doctorate from Victoria University of Wellington.



Winner — Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 2024 — Booksellers Aotearoa New Zealand Award for Illustrated Non-Fiction



‘Although he is one of New Zealand’s best-loved painters, there is surprisingly little published on Don Binney. This book is of great value in providing a thoughtful, sensitive and engaging account of his art and life. Gregory O’Brien’s deep engagement with his subject shines through, giving the text a real authority, and the generous selection of images is fantastic. This will be the essential book on Don Binney, and an essential book in the art history of Aotearoa.’

Jill Trevelyan

‘Good Lord what a beautiful book. A simply breathtaking immersion into the vivid life and work of a great artist, whose work has received a long-overdue reassessment. Gregory O’Brien has done Binney, and ourselves, proud. Obligatory.’

— Sam Neill  

‘Meticulously researched, beautifully written and richly illustrated, Flight Path takes us to those regions of an artist’s life hidden from the viewer’s gaze. Told with empathy and truthfulness, this is the story of a man, brilliant and flawed, whose distinctive art practice and his concern for the environment will ensure his relevance for generations to come.’

— Robin White



‘Greg O'Brien has created honestly the most sumptuous and revealing book documenting Binney’s career.’

— Sonja de Friez, RNZ

‘One of the great merits of O’Brien’s book is that while doing full justice to Binney’s legendary birds . . . he also illustrates and discusses many other aspects of his work, thus enriching and subtilizing our understanding of Binney’s full range and releasing him from the strait-jacket of a clichéd identification with a single subject.’

— Peter Simpson, Kete Books