Matua Lester is a genuine fucken legend and a great New Zealander. I have looked up to his mahi and his korero for a very long time. His Mahi speaks for its self it's fun cheeky and simply stunning. kia tupato be warned, challenge his kaupapa you better make sure you don't bring a knife to his peaceful gunfight.
When I was about six years old the Tretchikoff print "Chinese Girl" now so ubiquitous arrived on the living room wall of my family home. That same work resides on my living room wall still. "Poll Tax" came out of my studio over five years ago. It is a direct conversation about the surcharge on Chinese immigrants based solely on their race. Many Asian New Zealand families have identified strongly with the historical reference and update of character in the portrait. This new incarnation of the famous, now Kiwiana icon "Chinese Girl" or Blue Lady as many call her is a move further forward into the "Third Space" commentary of my work. Third space being where cultures meet, meld and unify as a blended outcome. We are entering a new stylistic phase with so many Asian influences and I feel it is pertinent to play these out, to relish and enjoy them. Pop culture becomes our fabric and "Blue Lady" is an example of where my art is headed, pop art statements of Aotearoa, New Zealand.
#2 Hello Friend, "NI HAO E HOA"
As a child I was taken to the bronze statue of Pania on the Napier foreshore by my parents and we all looked in awe at the wonderful balance, poise and pin up style of Pania of the Reef... She was immediately captivating. There was a pride in the fact this traditional bronze style was portraying a uniquely New Zealand myth. She immediately took a place in my heart. Many reinterpretations have been created, from perfect candles to imperfect resin sculptures and so many printed stylizations. This is mine, celebrating her, the mythology of our country and speaking to the changing face of our citizenry. As always I look for similarities that tie us together rather the differences that push us apart. With this image I look back to the fifties and forward into a time where our differences sit more easily on our shoulders. She is like that, Pania, a healer, like the ubiquitous Tiki, esoteric, romantic imagery that transcends differences creating a deep inner connection we all share.
This image was inspired by a World War One propaganda image of the “New Zealand War Dog”. This old image shows a British Bulldog standing on a New Zealand flag thrown across the Union Jack. That 1914 dog wore the three Huia feathers, the Tiki and Moko shown here. I have updated the concept as tribute to the sacrifices made for New Zealand in Europe and in fact all N.Z. military personnel. While I think war is not something to be glorified, the courage and ability to protect ones social structure is an imperative. I believe one of the true Kiwi traits is resolve. The resolve to steadfastly stand behind a value. The men and women who actually put themselves in harms way that we may live free must be remembered and thanked. This dog represents the New Zealand resolve to stand and fight for what we think is right against anyone. This image also though reminds me that the use of the facial moko to designate New Zealandness is not a new thing but part of our character and art stylings for many years, since the birth of the nation really.
is an image about the love of things Kiwi and the beauty we are creating about it. I have taken an archetypal White female image from the internet and colonized the page with it and looked for what it is we love about where and who we are. It also suggests a need to stamp on the motifs that make us hip and groovy. All people like to create a look. A way to see who we are. The love affair New Zealanders are having with “Kiwiana” I think is evidence of the pendulum swinging back against the “appropriation” arguments of the 80s and 90s which have proved themselves to be very last century. Kiwis want to celebrate the individual styles that our society has created. Many of these revolve around the likes of Moko and Kawhaiwhai patterns so specific to Maori but also the likes of the “Buzzy Bee” and Kowhai flower. The blue sky background links us to our beautiful South Sea’s weather and the Kiwi love of a sunny day at the beach. This version is set in stamp style to link with my other works but there is also a simple portrait version.