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TBI Q&A: Kelcy Taratoa

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In the work of artist Kelcy Taratoa (Ngaiterangi and Ngati Raukawa), urban New Zealand is an alienating and soulless place that he populates with comic book superheroes, action toys and…

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In the work of artist Kelcy Taratoa (Ngaiterangi and Ngati Raukawa), urban New Zealand is an alienating and soulless place that he populates with comic book superheroes, action toys and self-portraits. Issues of personal identity, popular culture and what it means to grow up as a Maori in the city are all explored in his distinctive large-scale, hard-edged and intensely colourful style. Although only 34, Taratoa has already had solo exhibitions at public galleries including The Dowse, Te Manawa and Wellington's City Gallery. In the work of artist Kelcy Taratoa (Ngaiterangi and Ngati Raukawa), urban New Zealand is an alienating and soulless place that he populates with comic book superheroes, action toys and self-portraits. Issues of personal identity, popular culture and what it means to grow up as a Maori in the city are all explored in his distinctive large-scale, hard-edged and intensely colourful style. Although only 34, Taratoa has already had solo exhibitions at public galleries including The Dowse, Te Manawa and Wellington's City Gallery.What's the best moment of the day?
Breakfast and dinner - it's when my family is all together and engaged in conversation. I love it

What is your earliest memory of taonga?
When I was ten or eleven, my father gifted a bone carving to me that he'd made, he called it a "taonga". That's my earliest memory of the term.

How would your family describe your aesthetic?
Gee that's such a big word. I'm sure my children don't know what aesthetic means, but if you asked them what type or what sort of work does your dad do...they're likely to say "he does cool stuff!" Their opinion is more important to me than the seasoned art critic's.

Where do you get news from?
I get my news from radio, TV, the web, and occasionally from a newspaper.

Who inspired you recently?
I visited Pataka Museum and saw an exhibition of Japanese contemporary painting - very exciting, great show. I walked out really pumped.

What place is with you wherever you go?
My home - it's where I'm happiest, at home with my family. I take that place, that feeling with me wherever I go.

What's in this rumour that you have a deal that you will only be creating work for the US market?
I can tell you there's some truth to it. But like all rumours, there's always a lot more to it.

Who or where would you ultimately like to paint something for?
Well, the ultimate dream commission would be to go to Tokyo, Japan, and paint for a year, and then do the same in New York. Who that was for is not important so much, rather the opportunity to do so.

What is the best way to listen to music?
I'll give you three scenarios: Loud in the car on the way to Auckland or Wellington; nice downbeat sounds at a cafe/bar with a group of good friends; and at a gig listening to one of my favourite DJs.

What's your favourite Whakatauki?
Part of a verse from Proverbs in the Old Testament: "...in all thy getting get thee understanding". The world would have more peace if there was more informed people who have a desire to get an understanding of things. In my experience there are far too many uninformed opinions out there.

In your view, what aspect of Maoritanga offers something profound to contemporary culture in New Zealand?
Humour. Many Maori I know have a great sense of humour and are able to laugh at themselves. I think this quality that extends to the culture in general. I feel that as New Zealanders we need to laugh at ourselves occasionally.

What artwork to date are you the most proud of?
The work I'm working on right now: 'KDGT >> DATABASE >> BIG.CITY >> FILE: 00260070001A.JPEG'. The work will feature in an upcoming show at Pataka Museum from the 13 May 2007.

What's your advice to any emerging New Zealand visual artist?
Stay focused, never lose sight of your goal, and never give up.

What has always been there in the way you approach life?
Live in such a way that allows you to be honest with your fellow man, and honest with yourself. It's not always easy, but if you're successful at it each day, it will bring great self peace - at least that's my experience.

What has changed the most?
In recent times I think society's standards and values have. In NZ we've legalised prostitution, an individual can bring life into the world at 16, you can drink yourself unconscious at 18, same-sex couples are given the same rights and privileges as married couples under the new Civil Unions Act...I'm thinking in my short life that so much has changed and I question the wisdom in some of these standards and legislation.

What are you afraid of for the future?
Increasingly I worry about the country and world my children will inherit as adults. Power hungry governments, war, the accessibility of recreational drugs that kill, the push by certain governments to fear anyone of Middle Eastern extraction, the so-called war on terror and the list goes on...In saying that, it is very easy to counter that doom and gloom with so much that is good in the world today and I believe that is a lot of good out there. So I personally have mixed feelings when it comes to fearing what lies ahead in the future.

What is the most recent book you have read?
I'm halfway through a book written by Roy Harris: The Necessity of ArtSpeak: The Language of the Arts in the Western Tradition.

You are given a piece of string, a stick and some fabric. What do you make?
I'd fold the fabric until I have a small square about 7 cm x 7 cm. Then I'd place the end of the stick into the centre of the fabric. I 'd then take each of the four corners of fabric and bring them up around the end of the stick forming a type of padded end. I'd then use the string to secure the fabric in place around the end of the stick.

What have I created?

A support for the painters hand. You place the soft end of the stick which has the fabric tied to it onto the canvas and then rest your hand on the stick so as not to place your hand in the wet paint. This tool has a name, but I've forgotten it.

What's great about today?
I'm in my studio doing what I love and are passionate about...MAKING ART YERRRRRRR!!!!

Interview by Jacquie Clarke

Check out Kelcy Taratoa in the TBI slot on KiwiFm at 4.30pm on Wednesday 18th April.

Kelcy Taratoa: Myspace is on at Christchurch Art Gallery until 24 June 2007

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

17 Apr 2007

The Big Idea Editor

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