Mathias Kauage, OBE
Born 1944 in Miugu, Chimbu Province, PNG, died 2003
Mathias Kauage is Papua New Guinea’s best known artist with his work
having gained international recognition. In 1999 he was awarded the OBE by the Queen.
Kauage was among those PNG artists who first started to use western materials and techniques to express themselves as creative individuals. Working in the PNG capital Port Moresby as a cleaner he attended what is considered as the first exhibition of a contemporary PNG artist, Timothy Akis, organised at the University by Georgina and Ulli Beier in 1969. This had a profound effect on Kauage, inspiring him to try making art himself. After a faltering start he was encouraged and supported by Georgina Beier to find and develop his own subjects and creative style.
At first he made prolific drawings and then Georgina Beier introduced him to printmaking, beating metal reliefs and then painting. He established a career as a professional artist and influenced a number of PNG artists who painted in a similar colourful highly patterned style. This Chimbu workshop includes a number of his relatives or wantoks and reflects the way in which PNG culture encourages a sense of obligation and sharing between wantoks. Georgina Beier invited him to take part in a successful public art project in Bayreuth in 1994 where he painted large outoor columns and made murals for a local youth organisation. He also made visits to Australia and the UK. Within PNG however it was a struggle for him to support himself and his family through his art due to the lack of a local art market. Exhibitions in PNG are still rare and artists have to rely on selling mainly to foreign clients through hotels and at craft markets. Sadly Kauage died aged only 59.
Glasgow Culture and Sport has four works by Kauage which were originally bought for the Gallery of Modern Art. When the gallery was officially opened by the Queen in 1996 Kauage was invited to the opening with his friend and London dealer, Rebecca Hossack. He attended the opening wearing bilas full ceremonial dress and met the Queen. Following this he created a series of works depicting the event and sent the Queen a portrait he had painted of her as if she is wearing bilas which is now in her collection.
Most of the work shown here is from the collection of Rebecca Hossack whose support has been key in developing an international audience for Kauage’s remarkable work.
Metal sculptor and painter Tom Deko was born in 1965 in Bena Bena in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. After leaving school in 1980, he studied Visual Arts at the University of Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby. In 1999, he was awarded a scholarship by the Commonwealth Society to study in Zimbabwe, culminating in a solo exhibition of his works at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe in Mutare. He is currently an artist in residence at the University of Goroka.
In creating his graceful sculptures out of reclaimed metal, Tom excels at capturing the particularl energies of his subjects. This energy might be dynamic (as in the collaboration of musicians – a favourite subject of his), dramatic (a warrior of uncertain strength tries to protect a fallen comrade), or even familial (a tiny child contemplates its towering mother). Many of his subjects are drawn from traditional life and lore.
Deko has participated in many exhibitions within Papua New Guinea and internationally, and has completed a variety of major public art commissions for urban areas in PNG. His works can be found in the collections of the Museum of World Cultures (Museum der Weltkulturen) in Frankfurt, Germany, and Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre, New Caledonia, South Pacific.
Teddy Balangu was born in 1961 in Palembei Village, where he has lived all his life. He is part of a large family of artists and has been traditionally trained to carve by his uncle. In 1995, he was one of twelve carvers selected to spend six months in residence at Stanford University, USA, where he, along with other Sepik artists, created a group of monumental works known as the New Guinea Sculpture Garden.
In 2006, Teddy spent 6 months in residence at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology as the Andrew Fellow. During his stay, he carved a clan post to be part of their new collection of works by contemporary Sepik artists. This experience was documented as part of the exchange between the Iatmul and Coast Salish people in ‘Killerwhale and Crocodile’, a film that also featured John Marston (Salish master carver from Canada’s Northwest coast).
Martin Morububuna is one of Papua New Guinea’s most accomplished graphic artists, renowned as a painter, printmaker, and muralist.
Martin was born in 1957 in Kwebwaga Village in the Trobriand Islands. After high school, he joined the Creative Arts Centre, then attended Papua New Guinea’s National Arts School and began participating in group exhibitions. His first solo show followed there in 1977. Since then, he’s had frequent exhibitions in PNG and Australia, and has worked on major public and private commissions for clients worldwide.
Screenprints, woodcuts, and lithographs composed most of Martin’s early work. Later he concentrated on painting, experimenting to see how Western art styles, including impressionism and cubism, could be used to interpret Papua New Guinean themes.
His work is in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.
Lucas Tangun was born in 1969 into the Nauwaia clan of the Iatmul people. He learned to carve from his father. Growing up in Tambanum Village in the Middle Sepik region of Papua New Guinea, he was exposed to many skilled carvers and showed remarkable promise from an early age. His talent and skill are wide-ranging, encompassing both monumental works and delicate, refined sculpture.In 1986, Lucas spent a year at the Production Workshop of the National Arts School in Port Moresby, where he also taught others. During his stay, he carved support posts for a number of public buildings, including the police station, and participated in an exhibition.
Since 1992, he’s exhibited regularly at Alcheringa Gallery in Victoria, Canada.
His works can be found in the collections of the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia and the Museum of World Culture (Museum der Weltkulturen) in Frankfurt, Germany.
Iatmul master carver Kaua Gita was born in Korogo Village on the Sepik River in 1964. He began to carve when he was fifteen, learning from his father and other carvers in the village. Korogo has a history of fine carving and strong ceremonial life. Its splendid ‘haus tambaran’ (spirit house) was renowned throughout the region, serving as the ceremonial centre of village life and a powerful incentive for cultural sustainability. When its latest incarnation was constructed in the late 1980s, Kaua was commissioned by the elders to carve its crowning roof finials.
Kaua is a great advocate for his people. As a senior carver in the village, he teaches many of the young boys, even carving gift pieces for them to encourage their progress. His works can be found in collections in Australia, Canada, and the United States.
Cathy Kata was born in 1966 in Pakin Village in the Nebliyer region of Western Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea. Her tribal group is Kapia Ulgu; her language, Timbuka. She lives and works in Goroka.
Cathy has been a professional ‘bilum’ (string bag) maker since 2003, well known in PNG for her ‘bilumwear’: fashion garments for men and women, created using traditional hand-weaving techniques. Cathy also conducts classes to share her skills with women in the community. While bilums are traditional accoutrements in many parts of PNG, Cathy and her colleagues are taking the form in new directions with a wide range of bilum styles, accessories, and derivations, using new and traditional materials.
Cathy has won awards and acclaim for her work in a number of recent competitions. In 2007, she was an artist in residence at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, where she also conducted workshops with the local community.