Art collective stages new exhibition
Foxton’s burgeoning art scene will be opened to critics and admirers alike with a public exhibition at Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom’s art gallery next month. Fanning the flame of the exhibition is renowned New Zealand Ma¯ ori artist Albert McCarthy, who is helping artists behind the scenes form a collective with the view of displaying new work and expanding horizons. McCarthy said there was hidden artistic talent in Horowhenua that deserved to see light. There were no barriers to the Te Awahou Arts Collective and the kaupapa was to include everybody, no matter what. The oldest artist was 84. “We are a collective. That is the kaupapa. We all operate under the one spirit,” he said. The exhibition was called Kotahi tonu te Wairua o nga mea katoa, which translated to English means “there is one spirit that flows through us all”. It opens in Foxton on December 18. Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom might be a long way from the galleries of Paris or New York, or some of the other galleries that McCarthy had exhibited around the world, in countries like Japan, Australia and the US. But he was no less passionate about the upcoming exhibition. Already he was seeing work of a national standard. “That’s part of the approach, to bring people in and support them and facilitate these works into these domains,” he said. “For me, it’s a passion and a privilege.” Any criticism was constructive — no different from a dance or music teacher — offering suggestions around size or scale and helping the artist understand what they were trying to achieve. McCarthy, who can whakapapa to Muau¯ poko, Rangitaane and Raukawa iwi, said he was fortunate to have brilliant mentors when he started out. It was only natural, then, that he would want to help others. As a youngster, he was encouraged to pursue art at every turn. Born in Taumarunui, as a young man he remembered joining the Taihape Arts Society, whose membership at that time was mostly women. “There were a lot of cream scones and jam,” he said. He was head boy of Taihape College and also captain of the first XV rugby team. The school’s art teacher John Wise, who had come from the Royal School of Art in London, was also the coach of the rugby team. Although the two pursuits seemed worlds apart, his teacher saw McCarthy’s passion for art and made sure he was able to immerse himself in both. “He told me to come into the art room whenever I wanted to. With that sort of encouragement, I was a sponge. I soaked it all up,” he said. He said his father encouraged him to pursue his passion, too. It would lead to a career in the arts spanning 50 years. “I always come back to those situations and those people and what it opened up for me, and have never taken it for granted,” he said. McCarthy initially trained as a teacher before attending the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts. He held the inaugural Jenny Gibbs fellowship for Artist in Residence at Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland before becoming a professional artist. Both sculptor and painter, he uses a range of materials, including canvas, sketch paper, board, timber, aluminium, steel and stone to create unique pieces or series of works. He uses the various media to express aspects and ideas from Ma¯ori traditions and history into his work, and was part of a Ma¯ori art renaissance through the 1970s and 1980s. A big influence was the late Cliff Whiting ONZ, a New Zealand Ma¯ori artist, heritage advocate and teacher who he said opened doors for many aspiring young artists. Much of McCarthy’s art depicts traditional Ma¯ori culture and mythology and his relationship to the whenua. His works had been exhibited throughout New Zealand and are held in public and private collections worldwide. Although his work was unique to New Zealand and Ma¯ori culture, like whakapapa (genealogy) and kaitiakitanga (guardianship), and respect to tipuna (ancestors), he believed there were themes universally relevant. Over the years he had donated thousands of dollars of work to schools and social organisations like Women’s Refuge. Marketing manager Te Awahou Riverside Cultural Park Arjan van der Boon said Foxton was lucky to have a renowned artist like McCarthy in their midst who had worldwide experience working with collectives. “It is great to have someone with his mana, background and experience pulling artists in our region together,” he said. The gallery at Te Awahou Nuiewe Stroom had displayed work of outside artists so it was great to showcase local artwork, he said. Kotahi tonu te Wairua o nga mea katoa opens at Te Awahou Neiuwe Stroom on December 18. Joining McCarthy in the collective were artists Jody Burgess, Reuben James, Bruce Falloon, John Bradley, Sherilyn Dury Vilela, Davey McGee, John Tarlton, Sonja Hart, Duncan Hill, Rahda Sahar and Wendy Hodder. McCarthy said next year the group wanted to participate in the Manawatu¯ Art Trail and the Ka¯piti Art Trail. “Te Awahou Foxton is slowly growing into an arts and heritage town. Our collective wants to play its part in that transformation,” he said.