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The ocean and the dark universe

Crumpled sheets of paper hung inside the entrance to Hoea! gallery suggest the surface of the sea and softly ripple with a projection of watery light that echoes looped footage of the sea on a TV screen opposite.

This connects with a projected image, and the susurration of the sea, in an audio-visual dark room, a quiet, contemplative space at the back of the gallery.

Created by Chemice Ahu, the ocean imagery and ambient sound of Tupou (to dive) pay tribute to the memory of the artist's little brother, tragically lost to the sea.

Curated by Rangimarie Makowharemahihi Pahi and Nikora Te Kahu, contributing artists to the exhibition Korou are Ahu, Fiona Collis, Kahu Hurae, Kahurangi Su, Ngaire Tuhua, Makowharemahihi Pahi and Te Kahu.

Both the ocean and the dark universe alive with nascent life feature in Te Kahu's painting Hangahurihurihangatanga. The glassy finish to the work enhances the blackness in it.

“The black is the blackest you can buy at the moment,” says Te Kahu.

“Black is the beginning. The work is really an experimental piece. I tried to make layers. I pushed the shapes and colours around. It's organic.”

A constellation of tiny circles dominates the work while in the top left corner is a stylised image of a waka hull and hou (paddle).

The birth of Te Kahu's young son is at the heart of the work.

“In te ao Maori the female is the waka while the male element is the hou,” says Te Kahu.

“When you have a child your bloodline carries on.”

Floating in this amniotic universe is a small form suggestive of a waka hull. In this context the embryonic waka represents Te Kahu's son, waiting to be born.

The sea of tiny circles signify people who share the same bloodline but they are many.

“If you tried to trace your genealogy the numbers are countless,” says Te Kahu.

As a combined workspace and gallery for work that is more exploratory, conceptual and experimental, artists' work on the walls, floor and ceiling effectively create an installation the visitor walks through and around.

Korou means to create work that is something you love or makes you happy, says Melanie Tangaere Baldwin, one of four artists who work in Hoea's four studio spaces.

“We are all about advancing experimental work in the sense we're not a commercial art space so hopefully that frees the artists up in their practice.

“People think of Maori art as in a functional space but this is a conceptual art space. Maori have a strong grasp of what conceptualisation is. It's easy for our artists to explore this in different ways.”

Hoea! is open 11am to 3pm Thursday to Saturday at 67 Gladstone Road. The exhibition Korou is curated by Nikora Te Kahu and Rangimarie Makowharemahihi Pahi.

LIFE IS LIFE: Artist Nikora Te Kahu's yet-to-be-born son is at the heart of her painting, Hangahurihurihangatanga. Te Kahu is one of seven artists whose work make up the exhibition Korou at Hoea gallery. Picture by Liam Clayton