Partners for great art

By Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell, Martine Rolls

Don't miss the collective exhibition named Rakau-Cola presenting the work of husband and wife team Tawhai Rickard and Tania Lewis-Rickard.

This exhibition will contain new mixed media works. It is on until May 9 at Creative Tauranga.

Tawhai and Tania have been married for 12 years, but have been partners for much longer. Above all they are parents as they have two children together.

Tania teaches contemporary Maori art and film at Tauranga Girls' College.

Tawhai works in homecare and personal care but has been contracted by schools to work with students on various art projects.

They are devout Christians and attend their Merivale Church. "To not keep God at the centre of all our art making is meaningless," says Tania.

Tawhai, who was born and raised in the Gisborne area, explains how both he and Tania have been involved in art all their lives. "For me it started more seriously with a Maori Arts and Crafts course in Gisborne back in 1990", he says.

"Then I decided to chuck everything in the Cortina and head to Rotorua."

He continued his art studies at the Waiariki Institute of Technology. That was in 1992, and that's where he met Tania. Many years later they returned to their art studies at Massey University.

The couple have been involved in a number of exhibitions, community projects and commission work. Even though they have different styles and methods, they have collaborated on many works together.

1000 Wordz was a well-received collective show at Gisborne's Tai Rawhiti Museum a few years ago. But they are best known for and creating Te Haerenga, the waka sculpture made of concrete and stainless steel at Tauranga Boys' College.

Last year they were commissioned by Tauranga Girls' College to make a contemporary Maori art work for the new English department. More recently, the Tauranga Art Gallery invited them to facilitate a children and adults contemporary Maori art workshop in conjunction with the 'Whakarongo' art exhibition.

Tania's art is disciplined, she is very precise in her designs, whereas Tawhai's work is more open-ended. "My work is Maori pop art influenced by God's word and the juxtaposition of western culture and Maori culture, which features the coke bottle icon and playing cards", explains Tawhai.

Tania first started exploring the Cuisenaire rakau rod six years ago. "My works echo the 'rakau' method of learning, exemplifying customary Maori art forms in a simplified geometric style. It is a process of stacking and arranging wooden rods in a rhythmic formation, a process of constructing meaning and representation."

Tawhai and Tania will be holding at least two floor talks to share about their artwork. They acknowledged Creative Community Schemes for funding support. Creative Beat

- Bay of Plenty Times

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