Tairawhiti artists at Auckland Art Fair
Three artists with strong iwi affiliations in this region are exhibiting as part of the Auckland Art Fair, which opens this month.
■ Robert Jahnke (Te Whanau a Rakairoa, Te Whanau a Iritekura, Ngai Taharora, Ngati Porou)
Contemporary Maori artist Robert Jahnke’s work champions modern Maori art and uses it to highlight important cultural issues. His works focus on people’s differing perceptions of reality according to historical facts and circumstance.
“His sculptural practice utilises steel, wood, found objects, and, most recently, neon,” says a note on the art fair’s webpage about the artist.
“Text has been a regular feature in his works and it operates on linguistic, semiotic, and visual levels. Through the repetition, rotation, and reflection of words and phrases, Jahnke reveals the unstable nature of language and how meaning shifts between speakers and listeners, context and form . . . Describing the use of stacked fluorescent tubes in his 2019 exhibition Lamentation, Jahnke notes that they “form a repetitive vertical pattern alluding to roimata toroa; the tears of the albatross”.
In the 2020 series Ta Te Whenua, a single “X” in a diamond glows in a mirrored infinity. The character itself possesses multiple symbolic functions: X can mark a spot or negate a statement. X denotes 10 in the Roman numeric system, in algebra it is the unknown, in arithmetic, the multiplier. More importantly, however, this cross form is the basic stitch in tukutuku weaving and the building block for patterns such as kaokao (the bend or side of the ribs) or patiki (the flounder), each of which plays its own metaphorical role in te Ao Maori.”
The Auckland Art Fair opens at The Cloud on Auckland’s Queens Wharf on Wednesday, February 24 and runs until Sunday, February 28, 2021. For more information and tickets go to www.artfair.co.nz
■ Te Ao Marama Ngarimu (Ngati Porou, Te Whanau a Apanui)
Master weaver Te Ao Marama Ngarimu will be exhibiting a suite of tukutuku panels. His weaving incorporates colour, texture, and the application of secondary materials such as lace bark to enhance their appearance. Ngarimu’s wall hangings can take up to twelve months to make and the preparations even longer through a careful process of harvesting, sizing, boiling, drying, and then softening the flax.
“Most works of art are labours of love or obsession, but sometimes they are an act of almost spiritual devotion,” he says.
“This is my love of working in harakeke.
“There is an obsession with the fibre, when you work with flax you become quite intimate with it and with your art form.”
Growing up in Gisborne, Ngarimu watched his grandmothers weave and eventually enrolled in a craft and design course at Hawke’s Bay polytechnic. During his study he worked with 14 mediums including flax; the patterns of which resonated with him.
“My passion for weaving runs deep,” he says.
“I recall, as a child, sitting with my grannies as they were preparing the whitu (flax). At first I would just watch, and then slowly I was given small pieces to practise on. I still sit with them. I have about 20 grannies — and that’s just counting the ones you can still see.”
■ Robyn Kahukiwa
Kahukiwa’s work is often celebrated for its contribution to the evolution of traditional and contemporary Maori art, and her interweaving of art and politics.
Australian born, Kahukiwa lost connection with her culture and family until her return to Aotearoa at age 19.
In the 1960s and ‘70s, as a young mother living in the state housing units of Wellington, she began to produce artworks that depicted marginalisation, dis-empowerment and spiritual displacement.
The events of the mid-1970s, such as the hikoi on Parliament and the passing of the Treaty of Waitangi Act, further determined her interest in issues relevant to Maori. She embarked on a body of work that crossed between protest-style paintings, illustrative work and text-rich pieces.
While Kahukiwa’s themes remain activist in nature, her compositions are increasingly uncluttered and restrained, featuring only her powerful and select motifs.