ABOUT Me, my studio and my philosophy
I arrived in New Zealand in 1983 and then, there was little awareness of the contemporary Maori culture in Aotearoa. But there were beginnings of a renaissance in language, music and art, spearheaded by a union of Maori artists and writers, Nga Puna Waihanga.
It was in 1990, the 150th anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi, that I began to reflect in my art on the rapidly changing world of the Maori people. Encouraged by the support of elders in Tai Tokerau, where I lived with my family, I began to learn Te reo (Maori language) and Tikanga Maori (customs).
Well aware, that few artists of New Zealand other than Maori themselves have reflected on Maoridom since the early 1900s, I entered uncharted waters.
The approach of the colonial portrait artist and photographer have been heavily criticized for decades for their often dubious motives. The demand for images of the far away South Seas has often reduced Polynesians, not only Maori people, to mere objects of curiosity.
My motives to study and reflect on Maoridom was, that we lived surrounded in a small community in the Eastern Bay of Islands. Customary rituals on the Marae, such as Hui, and close friendships we made, nurtured my artist desire, to paint 'my picture', tell stories and to respond in that way to the groundswell of ignorance and inherited racism still widespread in New Zealand in those days. I learned to understand, that committing to the principles of the TREATY OF WAITANGI in an honest and healing way, would require of all New Zealanders to 'open their hearts'.
The world of the Maori people is steeped in spirituality and based on the holistic philosophy of us being part of 'mother earth'. But it also is a reality of post colonial grievances, pain and social inequality.
I see our time as one of healing and the creation of a better mutual understanding between the two races, and hope my paintings contribute along our journey.
For more than 30 years, I have lived and worked as an artist in the Eastern Bay of Islands. The focus of my work for most of that time became the world of the Maori people.
I was strongly influenced by my close friend, artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser and his principles and vision as an ecologist, philosopher, architect and artist.
During the years of my studies of fine art in Germany, I painted cows, predominantly large scale canvases. My fascination for these beautiful animals has not diminished here in New Zealand and I often portray cows as part of our New Zealand identity.
My studio in the Bay of Islands had glass bottle panels inspired by my friend and artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Now, I live amidst peaceful bush near Whangarei. Here also, I have also included colourful glass bottle panels in my current work space. The light from the outside is filtered and soft, it creates a natural atmosphere.
During my studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Nuremberg / Germany, I pained almost exclusively cows, as I grew up in a Bavarian village with. In my generation, I witnessed the dramatic change for cows to being moved from the outside, into industrial type cow sheds. Here in New Zealand cows lost their fascination for me a bit, as they grace happily on seemingly endless green hills.
My inspiration from 1986 on, came mainly from living close to a Maori community in Northland. Maori spirituality and the closeness of the Tangata Whenua (people of the land) to nature, had a profound influence on me, complimented by my close relationship to the ecologist Friedensreich Hundertwasser.