The Wairau Māori Art Gallery celebrates one of Aotearoa’s most well-known Māori artists, in his first solo exhibition in Te Tai Tokerau (Northland).
Shane Cotton (Ngāti Rangi, Ngāti Hine, Te Uri Taniwha) has recently moved to Kororareka (Russell) having spent a number of years based in Palmerston North.
Comprised of new and recent works Kei Muri Nga Mea I Te Rā presents painting, screen prints and sculptural forms and is grounded in the exploration of the possibility of meaning, and the unending search to know and understand more about who we are and where we are from.
It references Ngāpuhi tūpuna, important landmarks within Te Tai Tokerau and includes a visual language featuring vase forms, te taiao (the natural world), maunga, tiki, kōwhaiwhai and waka.
One of the key works in the exhibition is Uenuku Kuare, a tūpuna depicted in tiki form and supported by two manaia framing this important figure. This work has been painted in a reddy brown colourway familiar to those that have experienced Cotton’s work from earlier in his career. The earthy tones reflect materials such as uku and the pigment of carved forms from whare whakairo.
A suite of six new screenprints expands on the vessel motif, while the sculptural work Te Puāwai, which has been included in recent major exhibitions Toi Tu Toi Ora at Auckland Art Gallery and Te Puāwai at The Dowse Art Museum, features Cotton’s iconography painted directly onto the body of a hand-crafted boat.
Two new works make a debut in this exhibition. Te Puāwai II and No Ordinary Bird feature a floral element. This lily-like plant grows out of one of Cotton’s vessel forms in one painting and is held delicately by the tiki in the other painting.
Each work tells its own story in Kei Muri Nga Mea I Te Rā and is an example of Cotton’s unique understanding of paint and composition developed over 30 years of painting.