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Kelcy Taratoa Biography

Drawing from Māori iconography, Western modernist abstraction, and contemporary pop imagery, and often favouring bold vibrant colours, Kelcy Taratoa creates highly personal yet political paintings that examine notions of identity, the globalisation of culture, and the ambiguity of human existent.

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Early Life and Education

The artist spent his childhood between Levin and New Plymouth, in North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand. Whilst Taratoa has strong tribal connections to the Bay of Plenty through his hapū, Te Whānau-a-Tauwhao, Te Materāwaho, and Ngāti Tapu, he was not raised within a Māori cultural paradigm, which initially presented some challenges during his ungraduated studies at Massey University's Māori Visual Arts programme in the 1990s. Nevertheless, his studies gave him 'a thirst for knowledge, particularly around history, culture, and identity,' as he told Our Place Magazine, and graduated with a Masters of Māori Visual Arts in 2005.

Who am I?

Taratoa's concern with identity and culture led to 'Who Am I? Episodes', a series of acrylic paintings begun in the early 2000s. Each numbered as an 'Episode', the 'Who Am I?' paintings feature contemporary urban scenes inhabited by the artist himself and superheroes, such as Wolverine lunging towards the viewer in Episode 007 (2004) and spiderman emerging upside down from the upper-right corner in Episode 0014 (2006). Taratoa often incorporates comic book characters for their psychological identity crises, which parallel his own experiences of growing up Māori in contemporary urban society.

Figuration and Abstraction

Though painted by hand, the precise lines and shapes of Taratoa's paintings easily appear to be prints from a distance—an intentional effect that the artist deploys to challenge the definition of the painting medium. Similarly, he weaves together elements of figuration and abstraction, rendering the extreme close-up of Iron Man's face in Garvis... Are You There? (2009) in jagged contours. Taratoa's more abstract works, such as Whare-kura and Tawhiri-rangi (both 2021), initially establish a dialogue between Māori customary artforms and Western geometric abstraction, yet through the titles suggest meaning is derived from language and cultural fluency.

Te Wheke

In 2020, Taratoa unveiled his two-part commission for Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū. The two monumental wall paintings, one traversing the outer wall of the gallery and the other inside, draw from the Māori artform of tukutuku, stories of early voyages across the Pacific, including local whakapapa (genealogy) and sites of significance. The artist's commission is in association with the major group exhibition Te Wheke: Pathways Across Oceania, which began in May 2020 and continues until June 2022.

Exhibitions

Solo exhibitions include Te Āio, Bartley & Company Art, Wellington (2021); __He Kauhanga Tawhito, Sumer Gallery, Tauranga, (2020); The Grey Space: Te Kore-Te Wiwia, Bartley & Company Art, Wellington (2019); The Who Am I? Episode 001, 20 Year Survey, Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga (2019); Big City, Nadene Milne Gallery (2017); The Panoptic Tower, Pataka Art + Museum, Porirua (2016); Myspace, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna Toi o Waiwhetū (2007); and The Who Am I? Episodes, Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt (2005).

Selected group exhibitions include: Toi Tū Toi Ora, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki (2020-21); Te Wheke: Pathways Across Oceania, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū (2020); We Like Catching Fish, Māngere Arts Centre Nga Tohu o Uenuku, Auckland (2016); Mau Āhua, New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkena Whakaata, Wellington (2016); Toioho XX: 20 Years of Maori Visual Art, Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science, and History, Palmerston North (2015); Roundabout: Face to Face, Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2011); Roundabout, City Gallery Wellington (2010); New Painting: Digital Age, Pataka Art + Museum, Porirua (2007); and Back to Mine: Urban Realities 2x2 Projects, City Gallery Wellington, Wellington (2006).

Kelcy Taratoa's website can be found here and his Instagram can be found here.

Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2021

Kelcy Taratoa Featured Artworks

View All (27)
Te Rangi Tūhāhā by Kelcy Taratoa contemporary artwork painting
Kelcy TaratoaTe Rangi Tūhāhā, 2020acrylic on linen
45 x 45 cm
Bartley & Company Art Contact Gallery
Disappearing Reimaged 16 by Kelcy Taratoa contemporary artwork painting
Kelcy TaratoaDisappearing Reimaged 16, 2012acrylic on linen
180 x 180 x 7 cm
Bartley & Company Art Contact Gallery
Garvis... Are you there? by Kelcy Taratoa contemporary artwork painting
Kelcy TaratoaGarvis... Are you there?, 2009acrylic on linen
100 x 100 x 7 cm
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Bartley & Company Art
Downloaded by Kelcy Taratoa contemporary artwork painting, works on paper
Kelcy TaratoaDownloaded, 2007acrylic on linen
305 x 213 x 7 cm
Bartley & Company Art Contact Gallery
Vivid Vibration by Kelcy Taratoa contemporary artwork painting
Kelcy TaratoaVivid Vibration, 2009acrylic on linen
100 x 100 x 7 cm
Bartley & Company Art Contact Gallery
BIGCITY B3 by Kelcy Taratoa contemporary artwork painting
Kelcy TaratoaBIGCITY B3, 2007acrylic on linen
120 x 120 x 7 cm
Bartley & Company Art Contact Gallery
Exposure by Kelcy Taratoa contemporary artwork painting
Kelcy TaratoaExposure, 2012acrylic on linen
180 x 180 x 7 cm
Bartley & Company Art Contact Gallery
Without Conscience by Kelcy Taratoa contemporary artwork painting
Kelcy TaratoaWithout Conscience, 2013acrylic on linen
45 x 45 x 7 cm
Bartley & Company Art Contact Gallery

Kelcy Taratoa Recent Exhibitions

Kelcy Taratoa Represented By

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