Kay George
Years of Colour, 1988 – 2018
Paintings, Digital Vinyl, Textiles, Installation
July 21 – August 26 2018

Opening Saturday July 21 @6pm with CITC Liquor.

Kay George, Exhibiting Artist
Gaye Whitta, General Manager, CITC
Ben Bergman, Director, Bergman Gallery
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, regulalry 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. Entitled “The Beginning,” it is about arriving pregnant with my daughter Ramana. I have also included garments painted thirty years ago, shown alongside garments printed now. Other than these few pieces, this show consists of entirely new works produced over the past year.

As a child I also would watch my mother making clothes for neighbourhood families. It was the time when there were many so called habadashery 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 late 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 21st1988.  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 the island, 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 opened the doors of the Art Studio in Dr. Fariu’s old building and had funky, amazing group exhibitions. 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.  For many idyllic years, we lived what I consider the artist’s dream.

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 neighbor 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.

Since closing the Art Studio, I have had a new freedom to create, moving between various mediums while continuing to work on commissions and exhibitions. I still observe changes within the community and with new technology emerging I continually investigate ways of visually representing new work. On a typical day in my workshop, you can find me floating between screening pareau’s, painting blocks of colour onto canvas, and taking photographs for new prints. I tend to work fast, moving between projects, continually adding layers.

I began dying organza silk this year and created folding silk screens to show how art-work can be used as functional room dividers. Digital art is replacing a lot of formal art and so I have continued to investigate new technologies and new surfaces to create on. This show also exhibits my first forays into using a new machine that came onto the island to create wallpaper.

A piece in the show entitled “Fading Memory” uses limited screen prints on canvas. The prints look as if they are almost fading away, representing a Cook Islands’ culture that is changing and replaced by a technology-driven generation with more influence from the outside world.  This work, and others in the show, also look at climate change, particularly the loss of fish, fauna, and the rising tides.

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.’


All Photos @turamaphotography