King Of The Wood
Brooke Gifford Gallery
30 April - 25 May 2002

Since 1997 my work as a painter has been concerned primarily with issues of location and dislocation from my viewpoint as a New Zealander of mixed Samoan and European heritage. To date this theme has manifested itself in my work in various ways: through abstract paintings using discarded mistinted paints; through colourful grid formations of aluminium discs painted with crosses doubling as frangipani flowers; through blurred and imperfect stencils of flowers spraypainted onto squares of acetate; through graphic microscopic images of introduced viruses, social diseases and addictions painted directly over tapa cloth and through a lavishly camouflaged tapa surface that both conceals and reveals, seduces and repels.

After these years of fruitful investigation of the many formal and conceptual properties of different paints and materials, I have returned to oil paint on canvas in my latest series of paintings, King of the Wood. The title of the series refers to an ancient myth outlined in James G. Frazer’s book, The Golden Bough, in which the King of the Wood is the strongest man of the tribe and the sacred repository of its well-being. The King of the Wood lives in a temple, enjoying the best of everything in life, until he is killed by a competitor who then takes his place.

I see an interesting analogy between this myth and developments in New Zealand art over the past half-century. This observation has led me to revisit the terrain of mystic provincialism in painting, inspiring my revival of that familiar icon of 20th century New Zealand art, the burnt stump. Convinced that there is always something new to be discovered in the overly familiar, I am developing a new kind surreal regionalism in the series King of the Wood, using the anthropomorphised form of the burnt stump as my central motif.