A site-specific artwork by Taranaki artist WharehokaSmith, commissioned to rest at the heart of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery.
This artwork was commissioned to rest in the Todd Energy Learning Centre, where education and public programmes as well as staff and community meetings take place.
WharehokaSmith was invited to respond to this context and create a work that echoes the building’s unique architecture.
Kūreitanga II IV is an interpretation of Pērā Hoki, an ancient waiata/karakia (song/prayer) which focuses on the significance of water to all life. The cycle through which water finds its way to the earth and returns to the sky once again is reflected in the painting, which reaches from the floor to a skylight high above.
An important karakia from the Taranaki region, Pērā Hoki was chosen in discussion with local kaumātua Dr Ruakere Hond (Taranaki/Ngāti Ruanui/Te Whānau-a-Apanui). WharehokaSmith has drawn on its imagery and narrative to create a visual language that refers to both traditional designs and modern abstraction.
Kūrei means ‘point’ or ‘end’ (of the nose) and the title Kūreitanga is a reference to the shape of the Taranaki coastline. It is an acknowledgment of the relationships that exist between humans and the environment with all things past, present and future. The Roman numerals II and IV are references to the Indian chakra: specific energy centres of the body that were activated in the artist when he first began to conceptualise the work.
Kūreitanga II IV adapts from patterns found in kōwhaiwhai (printed patterns) and tukutuku (woven wall panels), including roimata, kape and niho taniwha, elegantly demonstrating the ability of toi Māori (art) to respond to contemporary contexts. All of these forms have evolved and been passed down through generations of Māori communities. In this artwork, WharehokaSmith has developed a vocabulary drawn from the long history of Māori in this place, seeing toi Māori itself as ‘a finite set of resources with infinite possibilities’.
This commission addresses the absence or misrepresentation of toi Māori which frequently occurs in contemporary New Zealand culture, including within museums and art galleries. Working with both traditional symbols and texts, WharehokaSmith brings together important cultural forms that emphasise the concept of whanaungatanga – that no one person, object or concept can exist or prosper alone; that everything is related, and cultures benefit when the total is greater than the sum of its parts.
With thanks to Morgana James, Sophie O’Brien, Chloe Cull, Sarah Pye, Coral Dolan; and Ngāti Te Whiti Whenua Tōpu Trust for their support in the development and installation of this work.