A solo exhibition covering the 50 year career of one of Māoridom’s most important artists launches next weekend in Porirua.
Toi Koru - Sandy Adsett is the first major retrospective exhibition of the Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Pāhauwera artist and educator.
Sandy rarely seeks the spotlight and Toi Koru is just his third solo exhibition and features more than 60 works spanning the 1960s to today, including some created especially for the exhibition.
At 82, Sandy has just retired from his role as an educator at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in Heretaunga (Hastings). He established Toimairangi School of Māori Visual Art at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in 2002 and some of the hundreds of students he has mentored over more than 20 years are taking part in the accompanying Ahi Toi exhibition.
Another former student, Reuben Friend, is the director of Te Pātaka Art + Museum in Porirua, where the exhibition is being launched.
Sandy says while Toimairangi provided a solid base from which to work from, he had particularly enjoyed uplifting the arts kaupapa in Ngāti Kahungunu though Iwi Toi Kahungunu, the organisation he created to promote local art and artists.
“We’ve developed our own kaupapa for Kahungunu, that’s been our main focus for the last five years.”
While he had loved his teaching career, it was time to concentrate on his own mahi.
“I’ve got a couple of commissions for the iwi to do and I’m looking forward to being able to focus on my own work,” he says.
“What I really want to be doing is working on some new stuff.”
Te Wānanga o Aotearoa acting chief executive Nepia Winiata says Sandy has been a tireless arts educator over many years and his influence will continue to be seen in the generations of artists he’s mentored.
“Hundreds of our tauira (students) have had the privilege of learning under an artist of immense mana. Sandy has shared his knowledge freely and has contributed to the development of some of the country’s best young artists. He leaves a marvellous legacy with Toimairangi, which will continue to support our young artists for many years to come,” he says.
“Toi Koru and the accompanying Ahi Toi exhibitions are a wonderful testament to an outstanding career.”
Sandy says the Ahi Toi exhibition is a good way to recognise the works of graduates.
“The space was given to me to fill and I decided to give the opportunity to graduates. It wasn’t too difficult to choose which ones, I wanted to include those who had continued with their mahi.”
Sandy has achieved significant success since receiving formal art training at teachers’ college in the 1960s. His works featured in the recent Toi Tū Toi Ora exhibition and he has taken part in several major international exhibitions.
In 2005 was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to art and in 2020 he received an Arts Foundation Icon award, Whakamana Hiranga, alongside actor Sam Neill and author Joy Cowley. The award is limited to 20 living artists. He is also recognised as an Adjunct Professor of Te Wānanga o Aotearoa and received an honorary PhD from Massey University in 2018.
- Toi Koru - Sandy Adsett opens at 10am on Saturday, July 31 at Pātaka Art + Museum, 17 Parumoana St, Porirua. The exhibition runs until November 7 before touring other venues around Aotearoa, finishing in Sandy’s Ngāti Kahungunu home.