I currently live and work in Birdlings Flat, in a small fishing village on Poranui Beach, Banks Peninsula.
I care for my elderly Father Bob Pirika, who is Kaitiaki (guardian) of traditional Maori eeling methods on Lake Wairewa. I have a certificate in Maori tourism, and we often have tourists and school groups visiting to learn about the unique activities still practiced here. I have also been given the honour of being allowed to carve wood by the male elders of my family, which is rare in Maori culture.
I have qualifications in Graphic Design and Computer Graphics, but my passion lies in Contemporary Maori Painting.
In 2000 I began exhibiting my work at Te Toi Mana Maori Gallery in the Christchurch Arts Centre owned by Master Carver Riki Manuel.
In 2003 I established my own studio gallery called ‘Waikaha’ in Birdlings Flat, opened by Mayor Bob Parker. My gallery provided an outlet for notable local artists Cr.Steve Lowndes, Ian SK Robertson and Randal Wood. During this time I had a joint exhibition with Cr. Steve Lowndes at the Powerhouse Gallery in Akaroa, called ‘Chalk and Cheese’.
In 2007 I began working with art agent, Jolande Quispel from ‘Matariki’ in The Netherlands. Jolande has managed several exhibitions for me in Holland over the years, and she remains my agent in Europe.
I sold Waikaha Gallery in 2008 when my marriage ended.
In 2009 I took up residency at the Christchurch Arts Centre in the Artists Quarter, exhibiting in Gallery ‘O’ with American sculptor Timothy Mark. During this time I also travelled to Jordan and Egypt in the Middle East to prepare for a body of work comparing Islamic and Maori design, where found many cultural similarities. Unfortunately the September earthquake badly damaged my studio and Gallery ‘O’ before my exhibition date.
From September 2010 I was given the opportunity to open a studio gallery from the Events Room at Thomas’s Hotel on Hereford across from the Arts Centre, where I enjoyed even closer contact with visitors from around the world. This was a great success until the Hotel was wrecked by the February Earthquake in 2011.
The earthquakes destroyed most of the art scene and the city in Christchurch, but I was able to continue selling my work online. These events made many Cantabrians resourceful and creative. I was very fortunate to be invited to the ‘Atamira, Maori in the City’ Expo in Auckland, where I gained experience in participating in large events, and got to meet many artists that I have admired throughout my career.
In January 1012 I moved to Jordan and lived in Jabal Amman, which is a thriving arts community. I gained valuable guidance from legendary artist Ali Maher, and I was featured in an article about my Maori Art in Jordan’s most popular monthly Arts publication, Go Magazine.
I returned to New Zealand in July after 6 months in Jordan, to care for my aging father. He is very proud and supportive of my career, as is my extended family in the Chatham Islands where he was born.
The aim of my work is to capture the elements and goals of the ancient Maori artists, but in a contemporary way. I often imagine how their ingenuity would translate with the materials that are available today. The intentions of traditional Maori art are tribal identification, the decoration of sacred and everyday objects, to express nature and the gods that rule the world of the Maori, and to display skills in intricacy of design so that mana and whakapapa are instantly recognizable.
I passionately use heavy texture mediums to replicate carvings, laminated paua shell for decorative effect, and I love to use metallic acrylics overlaid with oil paints to achieve the translucent appearance of the paua. I use mostly the designs of Kai Tahu and Taranaki where I whakapapa back to Parihaka, Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Porou and even the Moriori tree carvings from Wharekauri.
I mostly work alone, but do get many opportunities to collaborate regularly with the artists within my community, and have a great network of artists to brainstorm with nationally and internationally via the internet.
I live for the arts and its reflection of cultures and traditions. Art has the ability to express the histories and nature of all nationalities and I am constantly compelled to learn more.
Lisa Wilkins - Pirika