Celebrating cultural identity with visual artist, Peata Larkin

Publish Date : 12 Jul 2016
Peata Larkin
Peata Larkin, Ngati Whakaue, Ngati Tuwharetoa, Ngati Tuhourangi

Peata Larkin is referencing traditional Māori motifs to create innovative and sought after paintings that celebrate our unique identity. Like many Auckland residents she was born outside the city and grew up in Rotorua. She was drawn to Tamaki Makaurau for tertiary education, studying at Elam School of Fine Arts, and to have access to all that Auckland offers to the visual arts.

Peata resides in Onehunga with her family. She is mataawaka - of Tuhourangi descent - and her paintings often reflect her connection to the Māori world through visual reference to the traditional Māori patterns seen in weaving and tukutuku panels. Her distinctive work is easily recognised as she creates her painted image by pushing paint through a grid surface so that it beads up to create ‘pixels’. On mass, these colours merge to draw the eye across the image in order to read pattern.

Peata Larkin visual art
Tupu-a-nuku, 2016 Acrylic gel and pigments on mesh and flexiface on LED lightbox unit (612 x 612 x 82 mm)

Peata has works in many private and public collections and her extraordinary large commission, Piki Ake Rise Up (2013), can be seen in the ANZ Centre on Albert Street.

Peata has overcome the cost of expensive studio space in Auckland in the same way many Auckland artists do, by creating a studio at home. Literally working out of the garage to start with, she now has the luxury of a purpose built studio. However this artist’s sanctuary still competes with her expanding family’s need for space, and indeed becomes a shared space where art making is integrated with everyday life.

As a first time applicant to Creative New Zealand, she was recently delighted to hear that funding towards the production of new work and a coming book about her practice has been approved.

Her July 2016 exhibition, ‘The Fourth State of Matter’ which refers to an ongoing interest in star lore, will be held at Two Rooms gallery in Newton.

In previous works the relevance of Matariki provided inspiration. This is the star cluster also known as Pleiades, and its appearance on the eastern horizon at mid-year heralds the New Year for some Māori tribes. Traditional celebrations have been revived and Tamaki Makaurau is currently running a Matariki Festival with Ngāti Paoa, a tribal group of Tāmaki and Hauraki hosting this year’s programme. One of the goals in Toi Whītiki (Auckland’s Arts and Culture Strategic Action Plan) is to celebrate our unique cultural identity and in particular Māori and their culture as a point of difference in the world.

New paintings reclaim the importance of other celestial favourites like Mahu- Tonga- the Southern Cross. These important navigational markers offer the artist layered scientific and cultural narratives that provide opportunity to explore cultural identity.

Larkin says “It is a combination of my cultural identity and art processes as a Māori descendant; severed from my Māori roots from an early age but informed and inspired by my Māori heritage in my adult years, hence a fresh understanding of Māoridom and how this has instigated my art practice”.

The star lore series provides content for a group show ‘Ngā aho tāruarua’ showing at Corban Estate Arts Centre in Henderson until July 17 and her coming solo show ‘The Fourth State of Matter’ show at Two Rooms in Newton.

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