Heavenly bodies borrowed for art
There are some surprising features hidden in Hastings artist Debby August’s paintings of Ma¯ori moko.
The images look 100 per cent pure New Zealand but the truth is that one painting includes the shoulders of Hollywood starlet Halle Berry, and that doubly chiselled torso – that’s borrowed from a CSI Miami hunk.
August’s series of five moko works will be among about 300 paintings exhibited by 70 members of the Humanity Painters at the Hastings Community Arts Centre from October 16 to 28.
The annual exhibition traditionally attracts more visitors than any other held at the arts centre.
The artists come from throughout Hawke’s Bay and are tutored by Napier’s Helen Kerridge at weekly classes in a studio above Humanity Books on Karamu Road, Hastings.
August says she enjoyed art as a student at Hastings Girls’ High 40 years ago but only picked up a paint brush again in 2013.
‘‘I started dabbling at home with painting on rocks and stones.’’ she says.
‘‘Then I bought a 16-piece art work online and different people told me ‘I’m sure you could do better’. So I started to paint on can- vas – just mucking around – and then I heard about Helen. I started coming to her classes and it’s been just amazing. She’s taught me so much.’’
August, who works as a mental health support worker in Napier, enjoys painting portraits, albeit from the lips down.
‘‘They are all chin down because I wanted to zone in on that area and enhance them, I suppose it just broadens the imagination a bit.’’
She found images for her subjects online and inspiration for the tattoos in books.
‘‘They’re not traditional moko, I’ve changed some. I don’t copy anyone’s moko, unless someone came to me and asked me to.’’
Her series is of four wahine and one tane.
‘‘They’ll all be in the exhibition but they won’t be for sale. I quite like how they sit together on my wall.’’
Kerridge says the group’s yearly exhibitions are ‘‘gaining a lot of respect through consistently presenting high quality professional paintings at very affordable prices’’.
Humanity Painters are now regularly represented in awards, including the Adam Portraiture Award, Art Hawke’s Bay Review, and East. They are also in the stables of galleries nationwide.
The group’s 2017 show is called After the Deluge, a reference to a near-calamitous flood caused by a burst street water pipe that severely damaged their studio in March.
Napier’s Patrick Tyman is this year’s guest artist and will speak at the exhibition opening.
Debby August with one of her five paintings showcasing Ma¯ori moko. ‘‘They are all chin down because I wanted to zone in on that area and enhance them, I suppose it just broadens the imagination a bit.’’ Debby August