by Isabell Gilbert Palmer

A few days before Roimata’s Mataraki weekend art show, he and I agreed to meet up and kōrero about his work and his memories about his first exhibition and his work, prior to what would be his first local solo show.

We sat in the warm winter sunshine, classical music playing breezily in the background, and he closed his eyes, sighed and said: “Isn’t it nice listening to classical sometimes.’ It felt intrusive breaking into his musing for the purpose we’d agreed to meet. Here was Roimata, the guitar player, the loud musician, songwriter, poet, his-own-wedding song-creator, and well-known muso-party-personality, lost in his thoughts and daydreaming with Debussy…

After quietly enjoying the music together for a while, we began by tracing back to that significant exhibition which started the public discovery of Roimata Taimana the artist back in 2017. Later I went to see the show and we continued our conversation amongst all his works.

A: I remember meeting with a group of local artists in Luke’s one night, brought together by Ian Preece, Lutz Gaebler and yourself, to figure out if we’d like to do something together, something local, and create a group exhibition for the first time. I’d done some earlier work in 2016 for fun, just having a tutu around. Then after a trip with friends to Niue things got a bit more involved and serious – someone saw it and I got invited with those first pieces.

That night we agreed to go ahead with the group show and soon after we invited others in, and it all started to happen.

We called ourselves ’10 Artists’, got a logo, chose a date, hired the hall, put money in the kitty, built screen panels, and that was pretty much it.

A: What I do, what I like to do… I tell stories on paper about Te Ao of the natural world. Te Ao Maori – rangi, whetu, moana, ika, ngahere, manu, pepeke, the stars, the ocean, the forest, fish, birds, insects. My art expresses the unity of all things in the world. Some have compared my work to Rei Hamon’s which is ataahua, beautiful and it’s a compliment. I have continued to draw and now shade, adding colour which is a development from my first and original signature black and whites works on paper. But in the last couple of years I have moved into a couple of different ways to work.

A: I begin with a blank page just like a writer begins. I get my paper, which I’m very specific about – its thanks to Vaughn Grisby who is an experienced and professional photo processor who put me onto high quality photographic paper – it’s the only kind of paper I use now because the ink from my Uniball pens doesn’t bleed into it. I never know what’s going to happen once I start. A story just arrives once my pen touches the page and the paper kind of leads me to where I need to go. Something just happens in front of me, like the paper and pen are pulling a story out that needs to be told, one which is hidden until the drawing process takes over.

I’m a pretty good observer so I notice a lot of what’s around me in the natural world, and that’s always a start in drawing a story. Once someone told me that when they looked at my work there’s a recurring image that isn’t natural in it, and thats true. It’s a form or pattern, something that I created and repeat. In almost every piece, if you look for it, you will find my harakeke motif. And I have also created a symbol – something significant to me. You can see that in my work too. It’s kind of my signature, three crescent moons and three shooting stars, the face of stars in the planetary system. Together the trio represent The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit – the Trinity.

Selling a piece isn’t the most important aspect for me. It’s not the sales which matter the most. What does matter is talking to someone about what I have drawn or listen to them telling me their interpretation of what they see in it. That is always a cool conversation.

What I love most of all is seeing my work go out the door and sometimes I visit a house or a place out of the blue and see it hanging on a wall! That gives me the greatest feeling. I love my art going out into the world and then later me finding it there. That completes the process for me, that’s the biggest reward.

A: I’ve discovered in the last few years how to work digitally on my iPad with my I pen. I like using my pen and paper, it’s nice but compared to digital, its much slower, it takes up more time and feels natural to me because I’m used to it, but now I have discovered what I can do with a digital program and a digital pen. I still do drawings with pen and ink on paper and I do paint sometimes, too, but the digital pen is exciting and its is much quicker. The pen captures what I draw and converts it to digital data and I can save it so easily and print off it just as easily. At the same time it’s all a bit scary and it feels a bit risky.

A: My series here is of four digital works and has taken me two years to complete which kind of belies what I just said before about digital… They tell my story of Aotearoa before known human habitation. Sort of a migration story, the first waka voyage representing all voyagers and then the pa imagery built in strategic islands and peninsulas of Hauraki.

A: My muse

A: I’d daw, carve, write, and I’d stay at home.

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