Northlander Andrea Hopkins has had little sleep in the past two weeks. She’s just returned from 10 days at “Te Tihi”, a international gathering for visual artists in it’s fourth year run by Te Atinga.
Surrounded by 100 kindred spirits from eight countries around the pacific rim, she says theres nothing like waking up with artists who talk about nothing but art.
The past two years have been a soul searching journey for the painter who recently ended a sabbatical of around the same length. “Between having a full time job and a career, I was run down. I needed a break.” The “return to her roots” at the forum was encouraged by mentor and friend Sandy Adsett, a leading Maori Artist, creating a whole new section in her portfolio.
Ms Hopkins’ first solo exhibition since her leave is at Tuatara Gallery, in Whangarei. “This was the first time I picked up a brush in a year,” she admits. Two pieces – both unfinished – have already been purchased by collectors, not unusual as her works are popular around Aotearoa and internationally.
Titled “Text and Kowhaiwhai”, a series of works tell individual stories about New Zealand’s flags, from the official one to the flag of Tino Rangatiratanga. “I know where that flags come from,” she says. “Three mothers sitting around a kitchen table who wanted something better for their children. It reminds me of the 80’s and 90’s and their dreams”
She says there are Maori who have taken the flag’s intended meaning out of context. “It’s not a hate flag. No one’s died from it.”
So her art work remains controversial, she says, because “I’m my own woman and will fly whatever flag I want”, whether that be Maori, artist or peacemaker, like one painting depicts.