The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.
A Life of Creativity
From a young age I demonstrated some sort of natural ability towards drawing and art. Selected for art extension programmes at primary school and studying it throughout high school, I was able to explore the world of art and create work freely, without worry or direction.
In 2001, I knew I wanted to be a teacher, but I also knew that art would always be a part of my future. Before getting stuck into my education based vocation, I decided to see where Art could take me. After going nowhere at Massey University, I was lead to The Learning Connexion in Island Bay (now based in Taita) and the embers of a raging fire were ignited. Encouraged and supported by the mentors and teaching team, my art blossomed and I learned the ins and outs of the process of embracing creativity in all its forms, from painting, to stage and set design, sculpture and computer graphics. The lines between the different disciplines constantly merged. Seeing my art sell in student exhibitions was always a highlight, but more than that, the connections made with other like minded people will stay with me forever.
In 2004 my time at TLC would come to an end; a moment I knew was coming, but one I was never prepared for. But my calling to be a teacher remained on my heart, and it was clear that it was my next step.
It was not all about the teaching however. As part of the conjoint degree, my art studies would continue in the form of Art History. I was able to study the masters, explore their moment in time and the context in which their famous works were created. From New Zealand landscapes to Renaissance portraits, from the Romantic Baroque of French aristocracy to the world of contemporary and post-modern art.
However, in tackling these subjects and visiting galleries around Wellington, I became disenfranchised from the art world. Walking into the shop-converted white-walled galleries with their polished faux wood floors where they championed PVC pipes sticking out of a wheelie bin as art worth exhibiting, rather than the works skilled talents of actual artists. I got the overwhelming sense that the Masters of Rembrandt’s stature would be turning in their grave if they could see what “art” had become.
FINDING MYSELF AGAIN
My focus turned to my trade, my chosen vocation of teaching. I would continue to pass hours spent in dull lectures by drawing and sketching, and would become known for these by my peers in the course. Chances to express my creativity was met in numerous ways, from learning to weave and twist flax for carving or jewellery, to different ways of teaching print making with 9 and 10 year olds.
In order to continue depicting the world around me, I decided that Photography was still in-tact as an art form, and had maintained some semblance of respect left in it. It had transitioned into the digital world and the world of social media was making sharing these with others much easier than darkroom developing and gallery wall exhibiting.
But it wasn’t the same. Eventually the camera would be on every cellphone in everyone’s pocket, and editing apps available at the finger tips. Instagram made everyone a photographer and the artform began to become cheapened. I still worked artistically than most; depicting the world from focussed angles, using lines to draw viewers in and exploring the world of black and white while others snapped family portraits, duck-faced their selfies into the millions and shot photos of their meal with endless numbers of filters.
Around 2009 I picked up the paint brush again. It was too much of a talent to let go to waste. Just because some people called tipped over paint cans on a concrete gallery floor “Art” does not lessen my skills and talents as an artist. I was never going to be as prolific as I had been in my earlier life; teaching is a time-poor job, and I was limited to the inspiration I could muster in between terms or on the weekends. Often the moments of inspiration would be 6 months, even a year in between each other. But I worked out that I still had the skill and the talent to create artworks. Other passions and hobbies would be developed and I began to realise that my world of creativity was largely cyclical, and began to work towards normalising this for myself. I had to make it okay for me not to paint for large periods of time, but that in the meantime, other creative passions would come to the fore. From website design, to illustrations, picture book ideas, to photography and music. I knew that eventually, it would be time again for art, and when it was, that I would be able to pick up where I left off and use my talents to serve the inspiration well.
The passion to exhibit had gone as well, and the world had changed. Physical art would still be king, but the ability to spread created images far and wide via the internet and social media meant that the reach of any artwork would be potentially thousands times more effective than hanging it on the wall of the galleries that I despised.
At the end of 2021 I left the school I’d spent over a decade working at and was at a crossroads. The previous years had become increasingly tough and was taking a toll on my already fragile mental health. There were real questions as to whether Teaching was still what i was called to do. Maybe there was an opportunity here to bring Art back to the forefront and give it a go full time.
However, the reality of life, with bills and expectations soon showed me that I do better when I have a regular income. So with the school year beginning, I decided to continue with teaching; initially relieving and using the down times to paint and create. Inspiration was fairly complex, and there were many ideas worth exploring and going back to my artistic roots.
I thought about my collection of works, and those of the masters. The likes of Colin McCahon had different eras of his work, but largely, when you see a McCahon, you know it’s a McCahon. Similarly, Ralph Hotere’s work, you can kind of see it as a Hotere before you look at the signature. When I looked over my collection of works, there is such a variation in style, in subject, in direction, or in focus. So I began to consider what I wanted my artistic legacy to be, and it was fairly simple – I wanted to almost continue where McCahon had left off. I wanted to explore his inspirations and use this as a basis to build the rest of my oeurve.
People should know perhaps that I don’t regard these canvases as ‘paintings’ … they are just bits of a place I love and painted in memory of a friend who now – in spirit – has walked this same beach. The intention is not realistic but an abstraction of the final walk up the beach.
― Colin McCahon