Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Songs for Matariki 
by Charlotte Graham
An exhibition response by Anna Doran-Read

“Dedicated to songs of gratitude,
good thoughts to all things
 and peace upon the land.”

In her show Songs for Matariki, Charlotte Graham explores holistic health and wellbeing in relation to New Zealand’s native birds. The manu (birds) have been beautifully portrayed by Graham as messengers and nurturers of love and light.

Graham’s large scale paintings in Gallery Two feature very fashionable birds dressed up to the nines, with faces made up, wearing high heels and fish net stockings. Te wa o te Ruru features a ruru emerging onto the canvas from the darkness of night. More human than bird, the owl who wears a moko on her chin is surrounded by quirky sayings enclosed in brightly comic speech bubbles: “Colour Your Life with Song”, “Aroha Mai, Aroha Atu”, while a cat hunts the ruru in the darkness, with “Rrr!” coming from its mouth. The painting is shadowy, yet the pastel palette adds a certain playfulness to the scene and Graham’s theme of birds as nurturers of love and life comes through strongly in this piece. The ruru’s face illuminates the canvas and the phrases surrounding her glow in the dark. Curator Ngahiraka Mason describes Graham’s paintings as being “dedicated to songs of gratitude, good thoughts to all things and peace upon the land.”

Graham’s woodcut prints in Gallery Three also feature birds as ecological messengers of holistic wellbeing. Many of the birds portrayed are covered in vibrant pastel raindrops, which is symbolic of renewal and rejuvenation. Before opening the exhibition, Graham had the galleries and works blessed and water played a large part in this ceremony. Matariki is a time for reconnecting using spiritual, practical and cultural means and Graham’s birds have brought these themes together in a delightfully playful, yet meaningful way.

Some birds in the Homai te Waiora ki Ahau print series are more political than their feathered friends. The work Frack Off protests the current debate over asset sales, with a fantail spouting familiar phrases such as “Aotearoa is not 4 Sale”. Beneath the bird are the words “When Tuhoe rights come under attack, stand up. Fight back”. According to Mason, the works in this series –  I think particularly Frack Off – are part of a “21st Century rite-of-passage development towards singing the praises of artists, community, individuals, events and topics that are vital, relevant and meaningful in our history at this time.”

Songs for Matariki is an uplifting experience, designed by Graham to promote holistic health and wellbeing and Mason has curated it in a fun and unconventional way. This exhibition is an inspiring exploration into Matariki, the time for new beginnings.

No comments:

Post a Comment