I am a self taught art maker.  I started drawing when I was nine and went to an art school for kids set up by art educator, Gordon Tovey at King Edward Technical College in Dunedin (1956).   Use of other media came a little later and continued informally into adult life alongside the disciplines of music, songwriting, recording,  commercial writing & production for radio, that led to arts journalism, facilitation and curation.  
In the time of the Settlement of Ngai Tahu  with the Crown, the arts were seen as way to move the tribe forward and away from grievance.    I facilitated events featuring the work and thinking  of Ngai Tahu artists across performing, visual and language arts disciplines.  Coupled with my re-established faith in Christ, a need to paint grew,  alongside accelerated dimensions of colour, form and thought.  After four dynamic years with my iwi Ngai Tahu,  change was on my horizon.   I was interested in the application of the arts as a tool to build and strengthen skill amongst people groups and communities where there was less opportunity for creative development.  I was uncertain how that would transpire. 

At intervals between 2003 and 2009 I trialled arts programmes as a tool amongst prisoners in Canterbury Prisons. The idea was to use the arts to begin talking / thinking about vision and goals for their future.   I made art alongside men, women and youth, and took small collections of their work to public audiences outside the wire.  There were a number of smaller and some large scale works and events developed  over a period of 6 years including the Ruia Prison Arts Fund Raising exhibition (see Prison Art pages).

I received an Arts Access Aotearoa National Award for Arts Services to Prisoners in 2007.  On the back of that I joined two other writers to develop a National Prison Art Strategy for Arts Access Aotearoa and the Department of Corrections Wellington (2008-2012).  That work was completed in a time of major constraint;  the new Key government, a global economic downturn and complex restructuring of government departments.  

 In this period I met with The Learning Connexion who were delivering NZQA programmes to prisoner populations across New Zealand.  I was offered a series of scholarships between 2010 and 2015 that would familiarise me with their entire curriculum, activate a formal arts practice and introduce me to an all important understanding of materiality;  the use of, and to some degree a pursuit of mastery of  materials in order to have that material information translate into the narrative of work.  (See Arts Workshop on this site).














Measuring Lines exhibition Arthur St. Cafe 4-12 April 2013 Timaru

1 March 2013

The exhibition title came from a dream in 2009 just after I moved to Timaru.  Prompted by that,  I started to make works but stalled shortly after for lack of art technique and understanding of the dream.  Months later  I came across a measuring line spoken about in the book of Zechariah 2.1 of the Bible.    The dream signalled some fairly radical changes that I'd make in my thinking over the years ahead of me.  Resolving these works as a point of focus, has been a slow layer by layer  process- not only towards completion but also about understanding  the bottom lines of my own faith.  The measuring lines really are the length and breadth of that.  

The Learning Connexion (Wellington) who I've  had an association with through the Department of Corrections and prison art programmes,  offered me a scholarship to paint in 2010.  Through this I have been able to go back to a starting point within my own art making process.  There was a major first year of stripping back, finding out that clean uncluttered lines and the deep transparency of colour would be for now,  the tools that would help me access and open out something of my own visual language.  They're mine for now. Finding and working with these two elements has without doubt helped complete the measuring line works -  the focus of the later part of the 2012  Diploma year.

The odd thing about painting / mark making and or translating and resolving ideas, is this -   if I  paint steadily each day, there's an unwrapping of new thinking;  new marks that progress the work.  These marks are usually always more than what I saw originally.  And it has to be this way.    If this factor of what I call living faith wasn't at work alongside my life and in the paintings and process, they would be too ordinary to show.   So the bottom line is this - these works reflect where I am right now, this is my news, straight off the press of my life, here and how, without apology.  Big thanks again to The Learning Connexion again and Juliette Whitley of the Arthur Street Cafe in Timaru.  The Cafe offers a relaxed and warm environment where people gather easily away from the more overt politic of arts spaces and audiences.  That's it for now.


Moana Tipa: