Art Cup Project
Artist: Dr Leonie Ngahuia Mansbridge
Title: A Thousand Untold Stories Māwhero
Medium: Acrylic on canvas
We sat down with Leonie to find out about the woman behind the painting and the painting in front of the woman.
What’s her coffee order?
Long Mac topped up and I’m a connoisseur. I’ve got my great coffee spots. I do like Moore and Moore because of the gallery space next door. But I’ve got coffee shops all around me.
Where can you view her work?
Follow me on Instagram for updates and visit my website to view more Google me. I’ve got 2 shows in New Zealand, I’ve got a work in a show in France, I’m in the Bangladesh biennale at the end of the year, and I’m in PICA in August. I’ve got a few smaller group shows, but just Google me and you’ll find out.
Why did you choose this piece of artwork for the cup?
I wanted to choose artwork that was vibrant, to stand out yet also bring attention to the stories behind my work. My genre is all about the landscape and the stories to be told, and how we need to understand it. It’s not a commodity. It’s a living entity.
What is the story behind this piece of art?
Being a Māori artist, Māori sees the land as our ancestors. I see myself as a storyteller as well as an artist. I like to tell these stories so people have more respect for the land. Everyone sees the land as a pretty landscape, but there’s a lot more to understand. With this work, I’ve painted over my landscape painting with dots and dashes which is the iconography of my artwork. These dots and dashes started from the idea of morse code. My father, who was in WWII, talked about how they all had to learn morse code and I got interested in that as it was another form of language, another way of telling stories visually. This interested me because Māori didn’t have a written language, it was all visual and oral. So I started to use morse code in my works. Since then, it’s morphed from morse code to dots and dashes, representing that there are always so many stories to be told. Using bright colours for my landscapes catches people’s attention and draws them to the land. I just want to catch people’s attention. I don’t literally do trees and mountains. Instead, I have my mark-making and colours that talk about another way of viewing the land. About 5 years ago, I painted a whole series of these works.
What appealed to you about this project?
I was just really excited about another format to get art out to the public. Art galleries can be quite intimidating. I’m really keen to get the everyday person interested in art. So it’s a great platform to reach out to.
People can sit and have a coffee, read about the artist and do a bit of research. It’s making art more accessible to everybody. Galleries are fine for me, but people get intimidated by going to art galleries. They worry people are going to ask questions or they worry they will not know what they’re looking at, but you don’t have to understand. Just enjoy. We’re surrounded by art all the time. You’ve just got to notice it. Like these coffee cups.
Why is it important to support the arts?
Especially with the recent times with COVID, the arts have been hit hard. It’s a hard space to get recognised and acknowledged. Anything that can help open up the arts to a wider audience really helps. The arts get overlooked. It’s the first thing to get cut from the government’s budget and doesn’t seem to be a high priority. It would be a boring world to live in without it. It’s our entertainment. It makes up our life. It’s our colour. We live in a visual world. Just imagine if there was no art. There would be no theatre, movies, architecture, or creative gardens and just even designing the city itself takes creative people.
To support the arts, it doesn’t have to be much. Simple gestures go a long way. Contact the artists on the coffee cups. Send messages of support. We need to encourage companies to think outside of the box and to be more creative too. Hats off to Karvan for instigating this idea. Why can’t all of our white packaging have artwork?