Whenua Hou: New Māori Ceramics, a joint project between Tauranga Art Gallery and Objectspace, was conceived as a selected survey of recent uku practice. It features new and existing work from artists who come from a variety of disparate geographical locations, making backgrounds, and conceptual positions, but who share (for the most part) an interest in creating works based on kaupapa Māori.
The exhibition features the work of Dan Couper, Davina Duke, Stevei Houkamau, Hera Johns, Tracy Keith, Jess Paraone, Hana Rakena and Aaron Scythe. Each of these artists have contributed to a distinctive body of work; one that reflects a range of responses to the physical and conceptual properties of this tactile and highly evocative material. They have explored a diverse set of themes and experiences: the fluidity of Māori concepts of time and space, relationships to whenua and ahi kā, the power and history of symbolic forms and motifs, and the changing modes we use to communicate and interact with our whānau and friends. The works in Whenua Hou also reflect the wide range of material processes utilised by the artists; a rich variety of techniques, clays, and firing methods are evident here. Many of the works demonstrate approaches to making that we might associate more strongly with other artistic forms – like sculpture, carving, painting, and tā moko.
Whenua Hou: New Māori Ceramics highlights the exceptional work of these eight Māori artists, but it is also part of a larger continuum that draws ideas of past, present and future into the same conversation. It is intended to act as a snapshot that brings into focus some of the extraordinary work being produced in Aotearoa, and within a larger global context, while also acknowledging all of the artists – that have come before, and will come after – who have chosen to work with this remarkable material.