Very occasionally there is an artist whose work captures something well beyond the image, beyond an aesthetic value, skill or idea. Northland artist Andrea Hopkins latest series of paintings captures a state of body and mind that immediately resonates with the memory of a viewer; a cellular memory, perhaps. Entitled ‘Mai Wahine’, this series of paintings continues a strong body of work focusing on contemporary Maori women, Maori life in a style and skill that is refreshing, open and accessible.
Hopkins’ (sic) exhibition focusing on the mythical ‘Mai’ sisters reminds us of the strength and depth of body movements that accompany waiata in performances, ceremonial, competitive or social. The paintings are difficult to look at without immediate reference to
memories, to those moments where our bodies have been positioned as the bodies on canvas, where our relationships to the world were exactly as those depicted, or where we have seen others in these very positions. They show a rare talent for writing those relationships with paint, extracting those moments of joy, pain, distance and closeness associated with waiata. Spending time with these images one can recall a waiata, or even a few notes slipping from the canvas to our ears, to the memories of sound held in our bodies.
Though not large (the works are A4 size on wood) each holds a powerful moment, a re-enactment of a position that lasted momentarily. What is also rare and to be commended is the sense in which these paintings relate movement and time, not through a sense of frozen time, but of time that in some ways stretches through the paintings, connecting past and present, land and woman, gently, yet with a subtle power and a style that places Hopkins amongst those at the forefront of contemporary painters in this country.