Fusion of cultures in carving sold to US

By matthew.martin@dailypost.co.nz, Matthew Martin

It's been a 13-month labour of love for Rotorua artist and carver Roi Toia but all his hard work has paid off.

His latest contemporary carving was commissioned and purchased by a United States-based Indian businessman who was impressed by one of his previous works.

Mr Toia said he could finally emerge from his small workshop at Mourea to take a well deserved break.

His latest carving is designed to be viewed from the front, but is double sided and is just as impressive from behind.

"I've been told the man who is buying it wants to support New Zealand art and artists - in particular Maori art.

"He liked the first piece I did for a gallery and has commissioned this piece for his home.

"He said he was impressed with the similarity between the Indian and Maori creation narratives and asked me to push new ground, adding more colour to this piece."

Mr Toia, who moved to Rotorua with his family in 1983, is a graduate of Te Puia's Maori Arts and Crafts Institute carving school, where he was a student of renowned master carver Lionel Grant.

In June 2011 his decades of dedication paid off when one of his works, Tangaroa - God of the Sea, sold for more than $200,000 in a Queenstown art gallery.

Mr Toia said he had pushed himself to his creative limits.

"I was allowed to be a lot more creative with this work. There's a lot more lamination and joinery involved. It's been the most technically challenging piece to date."

The carving is made up of swamp kauri and swamp totara, standard totara, matai and some of the detail is made from the Australian hardwood jarrah.

"I've used a range of timbers to bring more diverse elements to the piece - there's a bird form, a manta ray and references to human elements as well."

He said a lot of himself and his family went into the work as well.

"I had the honour of having my father spend the last three months of his life with me while I was working on this.

"In the year or so it took me there have been a few ups and downs ... and that's all now a part of this work."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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