Wide exposure for Raglan artist’s concept of Matariki

Raglan contemporary Māori visual artist Simon Te Wheoro can almost bank on one of his latest works capturing the attention of plenty of people in the street – and with ready money.

But his striking piece of art reflecting the rising of the Matariki stars and the beginning of a New Year is not for sale:  it was commissioned by the ANZ Bank and forms the surrounds of three “specially selected” North Island ATMs.

The 32-year-old reckons it’s “awesome” that a corporate company has acknowledged and gotten behind Matariki for three years now by creating the themed surrounds.

“I feel fortunate and happy to be part of the project,” he adds of his selection as this year’s featured artist. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to showcase my work and at the same time acknowledge Whaingaroa.”

Simon’s design incorporates several customary Māori patterns, and features seven moko kauae designs to represent Matariki and her six sisters – a common version of the Matariki story.

He says the two mountains featured at the base of the ATMs to acknowledge Papatuanuku or mother earth are “sacred landmarks that form part of my genealogy” – Karioi and Mauao, the extinct volcano at Tauranga commonly known simply as the Mount.

Simon reveals a cousin put his name forward for the ANZ art competition a few months ago. “They really liked my work and I got a phone call soon after,” he says.

In a “good weekend’s work” he developed a coloured A3 sketch which the bank then arranged to put in graphic format.  A final check by Simon, “a few small changes” and the surrounds which now grace ATMs in central Tauranga, downtown Wellington and Kaitaia were in production.

The bank will also make use of the design on everything from elevator screens to social media contracts and media releases.

Simon describes his work as a contemporary artist as a balance of three disciplines – moko or tattoos, sculpture in wood or stone, and abstract painting in acrylics.

Local examples of his work include a mural unveiled last year outside the Raglan Library and a stainless steel sculpture at the campground end of the Kopua footbridge. He’s also currently helping with a carved waharoa (an entrance or gateway) that will welcome people to Raglan Area School’s 150th jubilee at Labour Weekend.

He’s a past student himself, and did art there under Tania Mills’ tutelage before going on to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree at Toihoukura, the Māori contemporary art school in Gisborne.

Simon, who set up a studio/gallery on the approaches to town in 2013, says it’s a challenging road as an artist but reveals he’s now “busy enough” here without having to take on commissions.

Edith Symes

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