For emerging artist Leila Goddard, being Ngāi Tahu opens the gateway to her indigenous roots and in turn, indigenous culture and arts worldwide.
Hailing from Ngāi Tahu hapū Ngāti Irakehu, Goddard connects to Ōnuku Rūnanga.
“My earlier bodies of work have taken some of their inspiration from Māori narrative and legends. The often superstitious undertone of Māori legends evokes a rich tapestry of visual images for me.
“I was not raised with a strong connection to Ngāi Tahu culture, but have reconnected as an adult. I now understand why I was unconsciously drawn to Māori mythology at school.
“I, like most New Zealand children, had a secular education and my only exposure to anything denoting wairua (spirit) came in the form of Māori legends.”
Goddard is a water colour painter – a medium she describes as “honest”.
She says once the brush hits the paper and the paint begins to flow, there is no turning back.
“You can be quite anxious when you are working in it. On one level, it’s spontaneous, but then it also has to be controlled in knowing when enough is enough.
“But also for me, it’s about knowing the image before I work on it.”
Goddard often rehearses her paintings before attempting a final result.
Formally trained at Unitec in Auckland, Goddard went on to complete a Masters of Fine Arts at London’s Central St Martins College (London University of the Arts). She now paints from her studio in Auckland.
Her representational paintings carry a strong narrative, something that she counters or complements with the titles of the works.
“It’s an interplay between the image and the words. Often the titles can be quite satirical.”
Goddard says without the titles, the images may be interpreted as more earnest than they actually are.
Currently she is exploring how the Western world has started to adopt Eastern philosophy and spirituality, and then integrated them as “packages of spirituality” into a capitalist way of living. Those paintings will form an exhibition of new works on display at CoCA gallery in Christchurch, 6–25 April.