Monday, October 5, 2009

Searching for Tangaroa

Leading Maori sculptor, Brett Graham (Ngati Koroki Kahukura), opens his Wellington exhibition ‘Searching for Tangaroa’ at Bartley & Company Art tomorrow night, October 6th. It’s his first show in the capital for a number of years – though many Wellingtonians will be familiar with his large public sculpture, Kaiwhakatere, which sits behind Parliament Buildings on Bowen Street. Graham has exhibited extensively – nationally and internationally – over the last decade and he is highly regarded as one of the most exciting and accomplished contemporary Maori sculptors. Although many of his works are not overtly Maori, they are the product of Graham’s interest in “a dual dialogue of Maori and European histories, adhering to the Modernist emphasis on form and material quality.” His concepts and titles though, invariably draw on his Maori heritage. The small illustration here (courtesy of bartley & company art) shows sculptural detail from work in his upcoming Wellington exhibition – a solo show that reflects Graham’s ongoing fascination with water as a cultural site. Searching for Tangaroa explores the convergence of ancient and contemporary beliefs and technologies. He employs high-tech underwater scanners in a mythical quest for the location of Hui te anga nui, the house of the god of the sea and the original site of the carving. As a metaphor for the human search for meaning, the scanners reference a range of issues from the foreshore and seabed act to values systems and religions. Graham has also collaborated with fellow Maori artist, Rachael Rakena, who I featured here a couple of weeks ago. Their collaborative works (Aniwaniwa and UFOB) have attracted significant international attention and have been shown at both the Venice and Sydney Biennales.

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