Toi Iho artists join exhibition


11 February – 07 March 2020


AYESHA GREEN (courtesy Jhana Millers Gallery)
PĀNiA! (courtesy Mokopōpaki)
FIONA PARDINGTON (courtesy Starkwhite)

Director Tim Melville explains the genesis of the gallery’s 2020 opening exhibition, Release the Stars.

“When photographer Dr Fiona Pardington (Ngai Tahu, Kati Mamoe, Ngati Kahungunu, Clan Cameron of Erracht) selected Ayesha Green’s painting Nana’s Birthday (A Big Breath) as the winner of the 2019 Waikato Contemporary Art Award I had a reaction to the artwork that caught me by surprise.

Nana’s Birthday (A Big Breath) showed mokopuna with a range of skin colours helping their Great-Grandmother blow out her Birthday candles, summarising, as Pardington remarked, “a long life of nurturing and the simple life shared by families everywhere”. Ayesha Green herself (Kaai Tahu, Ngati Kahungunu) described it as “an exhale of generations [referencing] the infinity of whakapapa and the creation legend of Tāne breathing life into the first woman”. Green’s painting was a cross-cultural mash-up in terms of both style and content. It featured neither koru nor kowhaiwhai yet its Maori wairua was unmistakeable. It slammed me in the heart and it made me wonder. Who are some of the other Maori artists whose work feels Maori but doesn’t always look Maori? Who are some of the others whose practice doesn’t necessarily include the iconography that many understand as signifying ‘authentic’ Maori art? And if you were able to put some of these artists together what might an exhibition look like?

TMG artists STAR GOSSAGE (Ngati Wai, Ngati Ruanui), RUSS FLATT (Ngati Kahungunu) and HIRIA ANDERSON (Rereahu, Ngati Maniapoto, Ngati Apakura) were immediately interested when we talked about it. I hoped that FIONA PARDINGTON and AYESHA GREEN would say yes, and they did. Emboldened, I approached BRETT GRAHAM (Ngati Koroki Kahukura, Tainui), NIKAU HINDIN (Ngapuhi, Te Rarawa) and the anonymous artist PĀNiA! and was thrilled to get their agreement also. We had a show.

The exhibition’s title Release the Stars comes from a 2007 Rufus Wainwright album inspired – the musician explains – by a wish to start “opening up and following impulses” and by “the fact that it’s time to get out there and be part of the solution”. Wainwright’s goals resonated with me. After 12 years Tim Melville Gallery is finding its voice and, despite having much still to learn, I feel a responsibility as a Maori gallerist (Te Arawa, Te Atiawa) to try and represent a Maori world-view to our predominantly European audience of friends and supporters. How can we build bridges? How can we encourage connection? And, going further, how can we explore and celebrate indigenous relationships within Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa and with our Iwi Moemoea cousins across the water in Australia?

This February, as another Waitangi Day looms and the complex and shifting relationships between Maori and Pakeha are foregrounded once again, we are proud to be able to present an exhibition by eight artists whose work speaks powerfully and insistently about being Maori, today, in 21st Century Aotearoa.

The exhibition will be opened by Pita Turei (Ngai Tai ki Tamaki, Ngati Paoa, Nga Rauru Kiitahi).

Nau mai, Haere mai! ”

Photography: Kallan MacLeod

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