Paora Tiatoa (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Raukawa) opened his Beauty and the Beast exhibition at the Hihiaua Cultural Centre last Friday night. Around 50 people attended the opening, which began with a moving karakia and whakatau.
Those in attendance had a chance to win some of Tiatoa's work, with a raffle-like giveaway taking place for three of his prints. Tiatoa then conducted a provocative performance, featuring him wearing a sugar-skull mask and dancing with hammers to Pink Floyd's Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2).
The exhibition features a series of 150 one-off A1 prints Tiatoa created throughout lockdown last year. It's the second solo exhibition for the Waimate North native, who has also exhibited work in The Poi Room, ORA Gallery, and the RED Art Gallery, among others.
The 48-year-old graduated from NorthTec in 2015 with a Bachelor of Applied Arts majoring in Visual Arts. Initially, his art was centred around abstract shape formation painting but, in Tiatoa's final year of study, he transitioned to contemporary Māori art.
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"In my third year of study, I switched to contemporary Māori art because there was a transfer [of energy] between me and the heru comb," said Tiatoa.
The heru Tiatoa is referring to is one of eight currently in the care of the British Museum and was collected by James Cook on his first expedition to the South Pacific between 1768-71. Tiatoa incorporated the heru into his works for the exhibition and says one of his ultimate goals is being able to view the heru in person.
"That's [visiting the heru comb in the British Museum] part of my bigger vision. I don't know the intricate details of how I can get there but if I keep printing at a bigger scale, who knows what could happen?" said Tiatoa.
Tiatoa's style of printmaking incorporates multiple passes on silkscreen and ink jet printing. He calls it "abstract multi-pass screen printing". Tiatoa says some of the pieces on display are the result of upwards of 50 passes.
The exhibition will be running at the Hihiaua Cultural Centre until the end of the month, with most of the pieces available to purchase. Tiatoa hopes people will come away with the feeling that the exhibition is "different" and it will inspire engaging conversations amongst those who attend.