David Teata | BIO < back to artists

"My work embraces and celebrates the uniqueness of our diverse culture here in New Zealand.  My woodblock prints have a strong Polynesian presence, expressed through a fusion of traditional and contemporary elements".

David Teata completed his Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Otago School of Art in 2006 and now shares his time between New Zealand and the Cook Islands.  He is currently doing his Masters through AUT.  His work investigates the idea that identity is shaped in part by genealogical inheritance, an idea that is common to cultures throughout Polynesia.  In particular he explores the role of the Pi'a Atua within his own genealogy, a term referring to those holding the office of priest and prophet.  Their role as a living vessel was to provide vision, guidance and direction to the people.  Their presence was considered essential for the success and prosperity of the tribe and nation. 

A dominant feature in Teata’s work is the symbolic use of the lens shape.  He explains that when two circles intersect the shape created where they overlap is the lens. This union of two separate units results in the creation of a new entity.  Therefore whatever is contained within each circle becomes interwoven within that intersecting space.  This dynamic process reflects the merging and evolving of our multicultural society in New Zealand.   It can also represent the joining of different times, people, places, beliefs and ideas, the intersection of the natural and the spiritual realms, or the interweaving of an ancestor’s world with one’s own.  When aligned horizontally the lens shape resembles the Polynesian vaka.  The lens plane is an extension of the single lens, a modern equivalent to the traditional vaka still formed out of lenses.  Both the lens and the plane contain the notion of journeying and forward movement.  By drawing on this relationship Teata looks at the idea that we are each on a journey, navigating our way through life. 

The cross, which is used repetitively within Teata’s work, was developed to represent the concept of the Pi'a Atua.  The term literally translates as “god box”.  When a box is opened and laid out flat the contents are no longer hidden, and a cross shape is created.  The use of patterns and motifs is drawn from the traditional Polynesian practices of carving and tattooing.  The motifs etched onto the skin revealed a person’s history, tribal and social affiliations, religion, achievements, lineage and important events. The body could be thought of as a vessel, with the skin acting as a canvas, carrying the outward expression of internal things.  The lens, the plane, and the cross act as representations of the human vessel, embodying the history, values and ideas that are etched in patterns onto their surface.