Over ten years since his last exhibition at Pātaka Art + Museum, Victor Te Paa returns with Wero, a major new series of paintings memorialising important people and places in the artist’s life. In his paintings, memories of loved ones in the world of the living, and those gone beyond the veil of the night, converge and intermingle with metaphysical beings. Figures such as his mother become angelic sentinels, guarding him in this world and the next. Artistic mentors, such as Sandy Adsett, become carved Māori pou, completely enveloped by life-like manaia creatures. The artist himself, depicted in a series of self-portraits, appears in a bustling Pacific metropolis constructed from barkcloth and tatau imagery.
Since his last exhibition at Pātaka, Te Paa has extended his painting practice to include tā moko, tatatau and tattoo. Based at Taupou Tatau Tattoo Studio on the corner of Manners Mall and Cuba Street in Wellington since 2018, his paintings reflect the cultural milieu of this environment, with illustrative techniques from tattooing filtering through into his painting practice.
While strong Māori and Pacific influences from carving, tā moko and tatau, are prominent in the artist’s work, there are also a complex range of cultural influences from Asia and Europe, such as the stylistic and symbolic references to Gustav Klimt, Swiss biomechanical fantasy artist Hans Ruedi Giger, and Japanese tattoo imagery.
At the heart of the exhibition is one man’s personal search for identity and a place to belong, told through the contemporary lens of multiculturalism.
Artwork image: Victor Te Paa, Mauri Oho (Awakening) detail, 2021, acrylic on canvas, 50cm diameter.