Emily Karaka Portrait2.JPG

Works by Emily Karaka traverse the political and the personal, celebrating the joys of family, as well as historic and contemporary political issues. Recurrent universal themes that preoccupy her oeuvre are the environment, love and a historic narrative detailing her unfolding knowledge as a descendant of the Maori tribes of Tamakimakaurau on the Auckland Isthmus.

Emily Karaka b.1952

Born in Auckland, Emily Karaka is celebrated as one of New Zealand’s foremost cutting edge painters. Often discussed as a post-modern expressionist, her work is known globally having been exhibited on all continents during the course of her more than thirty year career.

Her work articulates a unique perspective in the cultural landscape of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Karaka was fortunate to have encountered sculptor and teacher Greer Twiss as a young student. The modern vanguard of this country’s sculpture recognised and encouraged his student’s talent early. He would also introduce her to other modern New Zealand heavyweights in the painting medium, including Colin McCahon, who would remain a lifelong mentor.

Emily Karaka’s first forays as an adult painter came after the death of her beloved father. Painting was a therapeutic outlet from the pain of her loss. It also marked the beginning of her journey recording her cultural identity and perspectives.

Painting is her turangawaewae or place to stand. From this vantage point she has vibrantly expressed her point of view as manawhenua in Tamakimakaurau-Auckland, someone with customary authority in her indigenous ancestral lands.

Works by Emily Karaka traverse the political and the personal, celebrating the joys of family, as well as historic and contemporary political issues. Recurrent universal themes that preoccupy her oeuvre are the environment, love and a historic narrative detailing her unfolding knowledge as a descendant of the Maori tribes of Tamakimakaurau on the Auckland Isthmus.

Her influences are manifold, having observed and been in studio with Claremont, Fomison and Maddox. Gretchen Albrecht she recounts among her teachers as having given her an appreciation of colour.

The forms that mark Karaka’s work are landscape, flora and fauna, as well as mythic ancestors that litter the native countryside, giving names to streets and landmarks, but forgotten by history. The artist revives and renews interest with her rich storytelling. She weaves a korowai/cloak of painted history that etches into contemporary New Zealand identity and consciousness the exploits of those who have gone before us and made their mark on the land.

Fervent explorations of personal histories are illustrated with a mix of traditional Maori motifs and classic European icons. Emily Karaka makes use of the written word frequently to express and communicate her concerns and the focus of her work. Travelling through her painted world is not for the faint of heart, but it is a nourishing and spiritual journey into a passionate universe lit by a rainbow of colour.