Artist in global quest


SAM Thomas is carv­ing out a ca­reer as an artist.

The 24-year-old Mt Eden res­i­dent is head­ing to Malaysia this week to take up a three-month Asia New Zealand Foun­da­tion artist res­i­dency at Shalini Ga­nen­dra Fine Art.

And he’s got some things to tick off on his to-do list.

One pri­or­ity is to touch base with the Jah Het tribe, an an­cient group about which lit­tle is known ex­cept for their medicine-based carv­ing prac­tices.

‘‘The idea is that if you had a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem or ill­ness, go to the carver and they will help. They carve a par­tic­u­lar form for you, quite stylis­tic, and it is used as part of a cer­e­mony.’’

But the once-com­mon prac­tice is dy­ing out and Thomas says there’s only one carver left.

‘‘There’s lit­er­ally just this one in the world. I would love to meet him and see what he does.

‘‘He might not be open to hav­ing some­one come and do re­search on it, it might be a bit more spe­cial to him than that. But it would be amaz­ing.’’

Thomas is no stranger to ab­sorb­ing artis­tic styles from other cul­tures.

Last year he lived in Raro­tonga for nine months to learn from mas­ter carver Mike Tavioni.

He also com­pleted a self­funded res­i­dency in In­dia where he learned how to em­boss and paint on alu­minium.

In­dian artists adorn ev­ery- thing from bi­cy­cles to taxis and bus stops this way.

De­spite the power of re­search­ing on­line, there is still a lot you can only learn first­hand, Thomas says.

‘‘I’m in­ter­ested in tech­niques that you can’t see in New Zealand.

‘‘These days you can pretty much look up any­thing but there are some things you can’t find out about un­less you are there.’’

Thomas will treat the Malaysian trip as a full­time job so he can learn from the lo­cal artists and pro­duce strong pieces of his own.

His work will be ex­hib­ited in Malaysia and then in New Zealand in 2015, he says.

Thomas works as a wood­work tech­ni­cian at White­cliffe Col­lege of Arts & De­sign.

‘‘At the mo­ment I only have time to make my art on the weekend or af­ter work.

‘‘Limited time lim­its your abil­ity to ex­plore.

‘‘The trip will give me a bit more free­dom to try things out,’’ he says.

Asia New Zealand Foun­da­tion cul­ture di­rec­tor Jennifer King says the artist res­i­dency pro­gramme is good for artists and New Zealand.

The Malaysian res­i­dency has been run­ning for about three years, she says.

The ris­ing dom­i­nance of Asia is only mak­ing the con­nec­tion more im­por­tant, she says.

‘‘Our job is to build New Zealand’s links with Asia – es­pe­cially in what is be­ing called the Asian Century.

‘‘The art scene in Asia is very vi­brant. It’s im­por­tant for our young artists to be ex­posed to that so we don’t miss out on what is such an ex­cit­ing time.’’

Go to more in­for­ma­tion.


To­tal im­mer­sion: Sam Thomas dur­ing his nine-month artist res­i­dency in Raro­tonga.

Cul­tural art: The vaka in­stal­la­tion com­plete with banana chan­de­lier made by Sam Thomas dur­ing his stay in Raro­tonga.

Is­land in­flu­ence: A hel­met sculp­ture ti­tled ‘Ex­pec­ta­tions’ crafted by Thomas in his Karanga­hape Rd stu­dio.

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