Kay George: Years of Colour, 1988 - 2018

21 July - 25 August 2018 Bergman Gallery, Rarotonga

 Opening Speakers

Kay George, Exhibiting Artist
Gaye Whitta, General Manager, CITC
Joan Gragg, Artist.


 Kay George is a textile artist and painter, born in Rotorua, New Zealand. For the last thirty years Kay has been based in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, regularly showing her work in local and international exhibitions.


Kay writes; 'My upcoming solo show at Bergman Gallery will showcase new work celebrating thirty years to the very day since first I arrived on Rarotonga. The show will start with the very first painting I did within the first few months of my arrival in 1988. 


As a child I also would watch my mother making clothes for neighbourhood families. It was the time when there were many so called haberdashery shops in which my mother would walk in and feel the fabric, something to this day I still do. In my twenties, I took to painting cotton and linen fabrics, selling them at local markets in Sydney and eventually opening a boutique with a friend. Over the years on Rarotonga, I have produced works in several mediums layering colourful paintings, photographs, and screen prints on clothing, fabrics, wood, furniture, canvas and tiles.


In Sydney, I reacquainted with my  husband Ian George, a Cook Islands teacher and artist whom I'd known since my school days in Rotorua. Eager to explore his Cook Islands heritage we moved to Rarotonga on July 21st 1988.  In those days, it was hard to find art supplies. This meant that I had to use whatever materials I had at my fingertips, which led to some interesting pieces painting on wood and dried banana leaves. With no galleries on Rarotonga, we were involved in our first community show on the veranda of the Banana Court with another show at Paradise Inn in 1989. In 1994, we returned to New Zealand for six years and became involved with the Pacific art scene, regularly showing in solo and groups shows. In 2000, my printed fabrics were featured in an exhibition at the Biennial of International Design in Lyon, France.

Returning to Rarotonga in 2002 with the dream of opening our own art gallery, we settled back into our family home in Arorangi. We soon opened the doors of the Art Studio in Dr. Fariu's old building. In 2006, we built a dedicated exhibition space and from then until 2016, the Art Studio hosted community group shows along with renowned artists from the Pacific.  

When we first moved here, I noticed how the kids would run freely and neighbours would sit in the evenings telling stories. Then, one day, our next-door neighbour cut our hedge down to make way for a wooden fence and a hydroponics development. Concrete walls also went up. Observing these changes, I began taking snapshots of friends and family in the community. I took these photos, put them on silkscreens, and printed the images as a social commentary and visual documentary of community change.


In 2008, I received a Cook Islands scholarship to complete a Master of Art and Design degree with Auckland University of Technology. My work has often focused on young women, so I focused on the changes in Cook Islands' women's adornment for my thesis. I looked at how changes in adornment have become disconnected from cultural traditions and how patterns have evolved from pre-missionary days to today's social media and online buying. I experimented printing photographic images on a number of surfaces, finally choosing glossy PVC. The two-meter tall pieces are held in private collections and where shown in the travelling exhibition MANUIA presented by BCA Gallery in New York City, 2010.


I still observe changes within the community and with new technology emerging I continually investigate ways of visually representing new work.  Digital art is replacing a lot of formal art and so I have continued to investigate new technologies and new surfaces to create on. 


Thirty years ago, I remember sitting on my porch watching the brilliant pinks and purples of the sunset. This solo exhibition of new works is the culmination of the colours of my life in Rarotonga.  It is a chance to reflect and appreciate the last thirty years of hard work.  I have gone from a front lawn artist to exhibiting locally and internationally with a loyal following.  Today, I still sit on the porch but see colours changing and fading.'