About the artist:
Tracey Tawhiao (Ngai te Rangi, Whakatohea, Tuwharetoa) was born in 1967. She is a multi-skilled contemporary artist who has studied and worked in a variety of fields. She is a writer, performance poet, filmmaker, qualified lawyer and practising artist. Her artworks convey the breadth of her experience and her position as a Maori woman in a European-dominated society. She is a regular contributor to Te Ao Maori Collective and her work has been incorporated into several Contemporary Maori art group shows. The book ‘Taiawhio: Conversations with Contemporary Artists’ includes a chapter on this artist and one of her artworks features on the cover of this publication.
Her practice employs the unconventional art material of newspaper. Her use of this media evolved from her interest in the written word and text and is an extension of her live performances in which she highlights the oral aspect of Maori history. The newspaper series has its origins in Tawhiao’s youth, when as a way of brightening up her grandparent’s home on Matakana Island in the Hauraki Gulf, she suggested redecorating their newspaper-covered walls with colourful murals. While completing this project she noticed the negative connotations in the headlines and decided to embark on her series of artworks that subvert the ‘truth’ of the daily news.
Tawhiao employs pages of newspapers such as the New Zealand Herald and the New York Times and obscuring certain passages of their text using alternating blocks of boldly coloured oil pastel and single graphic symbols. The symbols she uses are sourced from Maori rock art and Creation myths. She has also created her own visual language comprising of fish motifs and other symbols that relate to her Matakana Island heritage. Her blanking out of news stories acts to ‘rewrite’ them from an alternative, Maori perspective. By obscuring certain words in a headline or passages of an article she changes the focus of each news item and subverts the editorial slant.