Chairs help to tell a story. Many artisans throughout the ages have depicted people sitting and posing in chairs. This tradition of portraiture extends back to antiquity, which was not only a unique and popular way of recording someone’s lifelike features, but it also offered a real sense of that person’s presence. Goldie and Lindauer were New Zealand’s most famous 19th century portrait painters. Their works portraying Maori nobility were especially acclaimed. Although they were both credited with capturing valuable insights into a period of Aotearoa’s history, they were still men of their time who moved within the spaces of a colonial environment that hugely impacted all aspects of Maori existence. Goldie and Lindauer gained prestige, notability and praise for their Maori portraiture which essentially sold a story of a ‘dying race’.

My Wahine in Chairs is a modern take and response to portraiture and ‘posing in a chair’. I wanted to look at simple shapes and forms, patterns and colours. The chair is there, but it is also not quite there at the same time. It is meant to be transient. The wahine is unknown and featureless, she could be anyone. My idea was not to focus on any one individual, but rather emphasise the feminine presence and essence. In Te Ao Maori, women are considered the life givers of humanity.

The patterns used are contemporary Maori tukutuku designs. Taonga (treasures) that were created by our Ancestors during their life time, were imbued with the elements of mana and mauri. On many levels, these qualities have rolled into future generations. Wahine in Chairs is a celebration of this process of transformation. They have become a small part of that collective journey (and story) that is carried forward.