Artist way graphic
Te Ara Whakatoi - The Artist's Way

Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.

This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor…. We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.

-ENCYCLICAL LETTER LAUDATO SI’
OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS
ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME

Artist Statement V2.0

Tauākī Whakatoi Tuarua

Tēna koe:

He kōrero. A story.

Somewhere out in the darkness, somewhere along the road, I stopped for a rest. I felt the soft breathing of the wind, and I felt its messages ruffling my hair. As I stared at the slumbering mountains in the distance, as I listened to the song of the river beside me, I began to understand the reason for my picture-making. As I snuggled up to my Mother, the Earth, it came to me that I was, in a way, her biographer, there to write down the stories she told me. This insight meant I had to quieten the chattering monkey in my head and to simply…listen.

My work is a record of those ongoing conversations. It is a record of the space between us, of the communication between Mother Earth’s heart and mine. Because we are One and because I am of Her and she of me, we are bound by a physical and spiritual umbilical cord. She feeds, clothes and houses me, and she gives me purpose.

 My perspective of the relationship changed the deeper I journeyed into Te Ao Māori, the Māori world. Papatūānuku, Mother Earth, is a living being with whom we Māori have a tangible relationship. We are duty-bound to care for Her, to live in tune with her so that She will be able to nourish our tamariki (children) and mokopuna (grandchildren), and they will be able to feed on Her as well. And how could I do this?

 How do you make an inner conversation visible?  My way is to try and see with both outer and inner eyes, to find that place where surface and subsurface meet, where heart and mind can overlay each other.

My work process (for now) moves around like a bird on a wire, along a continuum between photography (surface reality) and painting (subsurface/intuitive), looking for a fusion of both. While I make my initial notes with a camera, it is in post-production that I can brush away the everyday labels and show what is beneath the surface. Thus every work is a hymn of sorts, a karakia (prayer). All my works find an individual path into expression and therefore life. Often (usually) the result will surprise and inform me.

The sacredness of this contract came to me one day while flying over Te Wehenga, the Cook River in Westland. As we hung and pivoted on the last fading edge of the daylight, an impression flashed at me: Te Atawharowharo O Papatūanuku – the Heart and Lungs of Mother Earth. An inner light went on.

If the artist is to progress beyond merely being an illustrator and to making art with meaning and purpose, then, he/she must connect to a reason and justification for making art. All authentic art is the concrete expression of the soul of a culture. For me, those roots lie deep within taha Māori Māori culture), in my connection to Papatūānuku, my tupuna and the Kaitiaki (Guardians).

Ka mihi Aroha ki a koe

Much love to you

Tony Bridge

April 2019