Review by Sonja van Kerkhoff
for Art New Zealand Magazine
Andrea Eve Hopkins’ works at the Whangarei Art Museum are negotiations on the art of in-between-ness. Many of them, such as If Biculturalism was a Landscape, reference contemporary cultural debate.
This painting glimmers with gold, and features the muted colours of cloud-filled skies and coastal profiles which, while arranged in slices, evoke a sense of tranquility. The image could be read in two ways: as provocative – that the land is cut up and divided; or as a meditation on diversity – that the disparate slices contribute to the whole.
Hopkins’ titles are important because they inform us of her ‘world in between’, which is not just about being Maori or Pakeha or both, as in, her own case – she is of Pare Hauraki, Ngati Kinohaku, Ngati Maniapoto, Ngati Toa, Welsh, English, and Pakeha decent – but they also position her paintings as emotional and mutable turangawaewae, a shifting, implied persona that foregrounds the subjective.
A number of her works, such as her Made in Taiwan series, engage with redneck attitudes towards Tikanga Maori – a brave and precarious route to take. An example of engaging with a more ambiguous polemic other is the 2018 painting Not your Martyr, which shows a crucified woman, in a stylised ankle-length piupiu with art deco touches. The drama and flattened figuration hint at outsider art, but such drama is only easy to dismiss if you are in a position of power or security. The Koruru sword balanced on her forehead. The overkill is a metaphor for an uneasy self-positioning, yet Hopkins is firmly rooted within Tikanga Maori.
Swimming with Sharks is filled with kowhaiwhai Mangopare (the Hammerhead Shark motif) dislocated from the rafters of a meeting house, in acknowledgment of the work of Sandy Adsett. Her title points to the bleached tiki midstream, surrounded by blood-coloured forms, enmeshed in and at risk from the Maori world/s, delivered with a wry smile.
In Rangi, Papa and their kids each of the nine square frames in arranged on the diagonal, divided into an upper and lower half. The grid – one image for each of the seven children, and one for each of the parents – references the narrative as well as the profundity of whakapapa, that both our parents are within each of us. We are left to fill in the implications of worlds divided into two halves, the ups and downs, material and spirit. It is a magnificent interpretation of the Maori creation story.
Flags and flying are themes in many of her works. In Karanga mai – Hoki mai birds carry tiny Tino Rangatiratanga flags up the Tikapa Moana (Firth of Thames). These flags, which symbolise self-determination, are being carried back (hoki means return) in a landscape ironically reminiscent of a flattened style of early colonial painting.
The worlds in her paintings, some newly made for this show with the support of Creative New Zealand, are not simply contrasts between Maori and Pakeha, they are worlds of personal creation. In And So They Should Fly the Flag at Half Mast the female protagonist is part pou, part cartoon. Her verticality stakes a claim in an unworldly landscape.
Event: ANDREALAND: Retrospective and New Works
Artist: Andrea Eve Hopkins
Venue: Whangarei Art Museum
Date: 1 December 2018 – 24 February 2019
Issue: Art New Zealand | Number 169 / Autumn 2019, pg42
Writer: Sonja van Kerkoff
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