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KELCY TARATOA: Who am I? … Episode 001 by Dr Warren Feeney


Perusing the pages of KELCY TARATOA: Who am I? … Episode 001 is a journey of self discovery and recognition in the composition of ideas on the canvas by the wonderfully evocative artist, Kelcy Taratoa. It is not difficult to recognise the imagery which draws on traditional New Zealand imagery including popular culture and more historical and indigenous motifs.


Part biography and part curation of Taratoa’s work, KELCY TARATOA: Who am I? … Episode 001 implores the reader to be contemplative, challenging the preconceived notions of societal expectations, and the role of artistry - in any form - on that same society and its subsequent communities. Plus, that innate and interminable search for who we are and why we are links Taratoa with painting - the most historic of all the art forms. Dr Warren Feeney, long time writer on the subject of art and its cultural connection, draws out the nuances of Taratoa’s work and explores the facets of the creative process.


The book is bilingual and translated by Hēni Jacobs (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Porou) and adds to the authenticity of the content. The Māori connection is celebrated in Taratoa’s work and having the language translated into te reo Māori solidifies that important link.


Taratoa, of Ngāti Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui and Ngati Raukawa descent, burst onto the New Zealand art landscape in early 2003 leading many to believe his work may be stilted by the recognition that he received so early in his career, and at so young of an age. He has defied those expectations garnering international status with his continued development and connection with people first.


Feeney has compiled a work of art in and of itself. Resplendent in a highly designed format with a black motif, the book maintains a creative air throughout and continues to showcase Taratoa’s work, albeit in a different and more portable fashion.


Overall, KELCY TARATOA: Who am I? … Episode 001 is a chronicle of a life well painted and places a line in the sand that solidifies the work thus far. Described as vivid, hard-edged and graphic, it seems that the strength of the work is reflective of the people, culture, and landscape that shape Aotearoa. As a title, Episode 001 is highly suggestive of much more to come from such a talented, and truly remarkable artist in the form of Kelcy Taratoa. That is welcome news.


Taratoa’s work has spanned two decades and the collection that is contained within the pages of the book was displayed with reverence at the Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga back in 2020, to much acclaim.


Reviewer: Chris Reed

Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga, Toi-Ohomai Institute of Technology, and Quentin Wilson Publishing