Te Arawa people of Rotorua have a proverb, ‘In this land, past, present and future move as one’. These words have held a powerful influence on my work, and along my journey into Māori art, I soon better understood the energy and power that lies within these words.
Looking upon the land as a living entity, I’ve embraced the spiritual aspect of Māori art that is the foundation of the integrity deeply entrenched in this wonderful culture.
With six generations of my own ancestors now buried in the land of Aotearoa, I recognised the spiritual connection I have to Tangata Whenua, the original people of New Zealand, through the land.
This realisation lies at the core of my painting practice.
Whakairo, the ancient practice of Māori carving, brings together small elements to tell a story that usually represents Gods or past ancestors. As these elements are repeated and layered over the substrate, it brings movement and animation to the carving, essentially creating life.
My veil of dots have been designed to do the same thing.
As an overall pattern they represent the topography of New Zealand. From winding rivers to rolling hills and mountain tops. Each dot reflecting an element from the natural landscape.
The veil can also be seen as energy - permeating and influencing our existence as we walk upon the earth that contains the spirits of all those that have walked before us.
I lay this veil over my paintings in an attempt to bring an aesthetic motion that animates, engages and energises the subject, incorporating certain elements so that they are working together and compliment each other. This collaborates our intrinsic connection to the land and reinforces the spiritual essence that sees it as an eternal life source, and connects not only every person, but every thing.
This original series, From The Land, explores my connection to Tangata Whenua through my own ancestors being buried in the same land. The Māori I have represented are the same generation of my first New Zealand ancestors, who interact seamlessly with the contours of the land. It represents my spiritual connection to the wonderful land I grew up on, and the deep history of Aotearoa. A natural progression on my ‘From the Land’ series, Deeper Earth goes into greater detail for the background images. Still using ancestors from the same era, but a different composition and expanded palette creates more depth and contrast.
My portrait series ‘Sharing Fire’ studies people with an undying passion for Māori art and traditions. People I have connected with through our mutual love for our beautiful country and its heritage. Through this mutual love comes a physical connection. It’s the passion we all share. It’s the fire in our bellies.
My ‘Takenga’ series looks at myths and legends from Māori culture and explores how the perpetual energy created from these stories influences important aspects, or even moments in my art journey and my life.
My work is slowly evolving with each new piece as I further explore aspects that connect me to the land and people of New Zealand, but also my ancestors whose spirits lay in the old country of Ireland and Scotland.
But with the philosophy that our lands connect everyone and everything, and a desire for the preservation of all indigenous cultures, I’m excited to see where my journey takes me next. I guess you could say, I have a lot more ground to cover.