He Kauhanga Tawhiti
25 January -
29 February 2020
Sumer is pleased to present its first exhibition for 2020: He Kauhanga Tawhiti; a painting installation by Tauranga-based artist Kelcy Taratoa.
For this exhibition Taratoa presents a series of new paintings installed over a wall painting, wherein pale grey shadow-like forms have been painted directly on the walls of the gallery.
The exhibition title – He Kauhanga Tawhiti – describes an expansive open space that one journeys through. The title, like those of the individual works in the show, is illustrative of the artist’s current preoccupation with space – be it physical, philosophical or spiritual. And furthermore, it reflects the artist’s desire to make work which is demonstrative of their identity/worldview which he sees as straddling multiple cultural paradigms; informed by different cultural legacies.
He Kauhanga Tawhiti continues the artist’s recent move into a style of painting which one would most easily describe as geometric abstraction. And whilst Taratoa’s new works have strong stylistic nods to Modernist conventions of abstraction and hard-edge painting, they are not one and the same; in so much as they are polymorphic objects or hybrids. Pieces which are informed not only by the canons of Western art history, but also Te Ao Māori (the Māori world): customary Māori artforms and motifs seen in the whare tipuna (the ancestral house or meeting house)—namely tukutuku— and mātauranga Māori, (Māori knowledge); as well as globalised contemporary pop-culture (zeitgeist).
The works of the exhibition have also been made as a direct response to the wall painting of Dutch artist Jan van der Ploeg, which adorns the exterior wall of the gallery (Wall Painting No. 474: Untitled, 2019). In van der Ploeg’s work we see a black and white zig-zag pattern; a pattern which strongly resembles the iconic poutama (steps of knowledge) pattern which is commonly seen in tukutuku and other woven Māori designs. And whilst this pattern is not unique to Māori, it is nevertheless significant in the present context. For Taratoa, he wanted to present an alternate view of poutama, which veered away from the rigid binary palette of van der Ploeg; for to his mind the combination of black and white, the rigid geometric patterning was suggestive of a worldview which treats knowledge as predefined, limited and contained. Taratoa instead decided to present steps that are comprised of irregular measurements and disrupted pattern – perhaps better reflecting a contemporary understanding of ‘stages of development’ from an educational perspective – and they are rendered in a palette of both subtle grey on white – as if they were shadows (the wall painting), and also in a bright polychromatic palette (the paintings on canvas). In both instances Taratoa’s presentation of poutama is reflective of what he describes as a ‘grey space’, or Te Kore-te-wiwia (the space without limits). This space which Taratoa refers to is one wherein traditional knowledge can be interrogated and manipulated without fear of possible offence. These works reflect a contemporary sense of creative culture: one that is inherently paradoxical, wherein multiple positions are held (or juggled) simultaneously without conflict or a clear hierarchy.
Kelcy Taratoa (b. 1972, Levin) currently lives and works in Tauranga. He graduated with a Master of Māori Visual Arts from College of Creative Arts, Massey University Palmerston in 2004. For the past two decades Taratoa’s work has been shown extensively across New Zealand. Current exhibition highlights include his institutional survey show, Who am I? Episodes, currently showing at Tauranga Art Gallery—with an accompanying catalogue to be launched in the coming months (co-published by Tauranga Art Gallery and Toi-Ohomai Institute of Technology); and later this year Taratoa will complete a large-scale site-specific painting installation for Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū. Taratoa’s works are widely collected and held in major public and private collections, both nationally and internationally.