review by Laurence Clark

You have to look hard (without reading the title first) to make out the letters, and then the words, contained within Andrea Hopkins’ Text and Kowhaiwhai paintings but doing so is a rewarding experience.

By the time you identify the words a word (Parihaka, Wairua, Onerahi), you’ve taken in the complexity of the patterns-within-patterns in the construction and you stay looking at the whole for awhile afterwards.

The introduction of bright primary colours to the traditional black, whites and reds enhance the work and the simple bold forms (in detail reminiscent of Michael Illingworth’s work) give a strong sense of movement.

Using mainly elements of kowhaiwhai patterns to construct an alphabet of European letters seems like a perfect assimilation – a balance of cultures.

The comic strip-commercial art-style blue eyes (complete with round white reflection spots) give some faces an eclectic, and even cheeky, appearance, others using koru, suggest sadness.

The challenge Hopkins has taken up here seems to be to bring the meaning of the individual words to life.  The best text paintings succeed through the subtlety and not when the meaning is a bit too obvious (like the handling of the paint in the darkness to light of Ao-world of light).

Andrea Hopkins is a local artist with a strong sense of her ancestral Maori heritage (Ngati Paoa, Ngati Maru) and her appreciation of Aotearoa has been intensified by the experience of being overseas.

Fly a Flag 2010, acrylic on canvas ©AEH10

Working with an established and recogisable style, using the subtle patterns of Northland’s natural colours, her work has become notable for its stillness and simplicity.  It moves in and out of realism and abstraction, co-ordinates landscape with geometric designs and makes use of floating symbols and significant objects; and these figures are continued are continued in the other paintings on display alongside the text and kowhaiwhai ones.

Paintings like Fly your Flag and the series of sketching, Powhiri at Rotorua, connect birds, kites and flags.  These works go back to the association with the design of the original Tino Rangatiratanga flag.  Three women with cartoonish heads, in Pakeha-style dress, fly their flags as if they were traditional kites.

For Andrea Hopkins, traditional Maori artforms are the foundations to her own art, upon which she attempts to build something new.