Aotearoa Art Fair 2023

2 - 31 March 2023
Kulimoe'anga Stone Maka and Andrew Rankin


Kulimoe’anga Stone Maka and Andrew Rankin, AAF23

"A big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff" – Doctor Who


Artists are Timelords.


One might be forgiven for thinking that artists Kulimoe’anga ‘Stone’ Maka (born Patangata, Tonga, based in Ōtautahi Christchurch) and Andrew Rankin (based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland), but Scott does love to set me these little challenges.

Stone explores the ancient tradition of Tongan ngatu (bark cloth) but with an unjaded enthusiasm for twentieth century European modernism – combining the forms and formalities of both into a style of painting uniquely his.


Sometimes he uses smoke and spray-painted, ethically sourced spiderwebs to bring even more intriguing dimensions to the work. There is a neat riddle posed there – how can the most delicate and ephemeral things in nature be incorporated into a work of art.

Just like smoke and spiderwebs, art can also make ideas permanent, even if the ideas themselves refuse to be nailed down into a single form. Viewers will insist on getting in the way with their insistence on seeing patterns and trying to comprehend greater truths through the fictive scrim of their own preconceptions and interpretations.


That’s what makes us human, I suppose. These are some of mine.


Andrew is interested in other relationships, between sculpture and furniture making, sculpture and photography, the real and the simulacra – taking all sorts of liberties with Rosalind Krauss’s expanded field – all in the exploration of how humans perceive time and history.


In fact, there are multiple commonalities between the work of these two artists. Stone and Andrew are both interdisciplinary artists working across multiple media to communicate their personal visions. We begin with the most directly obvious – what we can see:


The handmade elements speak of thousands of years of material culture, of making things, but contain elements that reference and revere the natural world. Both artists take up ancient handwork traditions and repurpose them to explore their histories and broader abstract concepts that defy categorisation, especially within the field of art. By doing this they unsettle us, make us take a deeper look, thinking about their past and future. Although the source material is often established and traditional, they invite the viewer to add their own interpretations to the tradition and genealogy being created.

It’s that idea of artworks, art objects, existing as their own stand-alone historical record, reaching far back into history and projecting far beyond the limits of the artist’s own mortality.


Stone, speaking of the work he showed at the 22nd Biennale of Sydney in 2020, described this timelessness of his art works and the way they connect together past and future. “My two paintings capture a sense of being in an interconnected world. They encapsulate a moment in history to preserve it for the future. Their intention is to connect us with the past, to learn from and to look forward in gratitude.”  


Something very similar can be said of Andrew’s work and his fusion of photography and furniture-making. There is a learning from the past and a looking forward.

The sculptural, three-dimensional format of The Time Travelling Object gives the impression of a vitrine hugging the curves of a colonial period escritoire by New Zealand-Bohemian cabinet maker Anton Seuffert (1814-1887).


The escritoire obviously physically exists in Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira, but here it is a Baudrillardian hyperreal simulacra, just as real and valid as a work of art and skill in its own right.


Removed from its material context and strikingly recreated in a way that deliberately draws attention to its deconstruction, the viewer can consider it as a sign with other meanings attached – history, colonialism, immigration, an emerging nationalistic aesthetic, Aotearoa, Bohemia, even Louis XV of France – the period Seuffert was imitating. Andrew writes of The Time Travelling Object:


“In this work the relationship between frame and image is explored through sculptural form and the reproducible medium of photography. Manipulated within the structure, the printed two-dimensional image replicates the basic semblance of the three-dimensional object it represents, facilitating a reciprocity between image-form and whereby the photograph ‘traces’ the object and the frame correspondingly ‘traces’ the photograph. Hence this project investigates the indexical relationship between image, object and photograph, activating questions about the significance of the chosen iconography and the connections between images and their referents.”

“Indexical” in this sense means a word, expression or some other form of sign, the meaning of which is dependent on the context of their use.


Context, in reference to art, is a highly ambiguous and mercurial thing prone to rapidly change from one thing to another depending on who is looking at it – a bit like Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle (a quantum particle only exists in one state or the other if someone perceives it at the time) or Schrodinger’s cat, but much less scientific (in the box you don’t know if it’s alive or dead until you lift the lid). Layers on layers like Sara Lee pastry… artists love nothing more than to mess around with context and make it jump through hoops.


Stone’s paintings are also time machines that ‘trace’ the iconic imagery of the past – in this case the material and visual cultural traditions of Tonga – activating similar questions about their significances, the indexical relationships between forms and meanings, and their parallels with European modernism, preserving them in the invisible frame of his own re-imagining of them.


At the same time (pun intended) there’s an easy timelessness to Stone’s work – there is nothing representational about them, nothing that suggests an image lifted from any particular culture.


If Andrew’s traced escritoire references the museological approach of mothballing heritage, Stone’s has its roots in a living tradition. If all of Europe and a significant portion of Aotearoa New Zealand, can be encapsulated in the image of a writing desk, Tonga is contained in the ubiquitous slapping sound of ngatu making in the villages, brought into triangulation with the European and American cornerstones of modern art, and the New Zealand-ness of their new context.


All artworks, and artists, are time travellers, transcending the linearity of time to refashion the past into ways that consider the present and make it relevant to the future. Art preserves ideas from being lost, containing them in a greater living museum of discourse.


Pacific time, however, doesn’t necessarily follow the rules of Western time – it is a holistic, simultaneous ‘now’ where events all happen at once, but are mapped by seasons, lifetimes, and things happening when they happen, when the hour is ripe.

Western time, especially in the museum, tends to be bound up in schedules, calendars, opening and closing, deadlines and the regular ticking of the clock. The artist, however, is not bound to such things, especially when postmodern thinking annihilates hierarchies of taste and the causality of A leading to B.


Artists are Timelords.


Andrew Paul Wood
February 2023.