Levi Kereama - Roll your bones
Aotea is proud to present emerging indigenous (Ngāti Raukawa) artist, Levi Kereama. "Roll your bones" is the title of Levi Kereama's art exhibition. This art installation will be available to view in our concept store from March 17th to March 24th. We had the pleasure to interview Levi and discuss his inspirations and aspirations.
What was the moment you decided you wanted to be an artist?
It's hard to concisely put it into a day or time, I still don’t know what it means to be an artist. That word sounds so big to me. I just always loved painting and drawing as a kid. After school I continued to paint more and more.
What are your inspirations when it comes to crafting your art?
I just grab from anything I can get my hands on. My teachers are the books I have and the artists I look up to, my uncle's carvings, and old books of whakairo from days gone and it's sort of this weird challenge and I have this image that's stuck in my head and it all just comes together. I sort of just stumble across anything and yanking it, whatever I can get.
Do you listen to any specific music when creating? If so, what is your most motivating?
This year there has been a lot of John Lee Hooker, a lot of The Band and a few random jazz records I’ve found, like Quiet Keeny. That's what gets me in the mood. It kinda just brings the energy into the room, and you almost need a beat, it's almost like you're dancing. You’ll find that if you play a really great record with lots of energy you can't even be still, and it's good to get off the bed and to the easel.
Do you ever get artist block? How do you get back to your creativity in an authentic way?
Drawing. That's all you can do. It all starts with drawing. Before I started painting this latest group, I had so many different ideas in my head and I was trying to grapple with bringing them together in an in sync and immediate moment on a canvas. So I drew in so many sketchbooks from the last couple months. Cause if it's a bad sketch you just flip the page and there's just infinite possibilities. And I don't feel the dread or pressure with a blank page cause you can flip it. And once I’ve figured that out I make my way to the canvas and it's all there really. But that's when the fun begins, when you can start bringing in the colour. But there's lots of times I can’t think of what to paint or what to do, but drawing is the big thing I reckon, I’ve only found that out recently.
How does your Māori heritage inspire you when creating?
You don't know what you're doing as a kid, but you're just drawing things you see around the house or when you go to the marae, you're drawing these little patterns and all the things you see on the pou and whakairo, and in between the pages of your maths book. And when I actually went to paint and the first time learning to paint, I went across the world to these other artists, these old French guys and old Spanish dudes and looked at them and I sort of forgot about the work that my uncles did. That's why this year and last year I went down to my marae and you see all those carvings and I was just sort’ve transfixed by them and I felt like I had no choice but to put that into my work because that's who I am, whether I like it or not. But it's such a treasure trove of wealth, of imagery and ideas to draw from and I feel so lucky that I can, and it's part of me.
What is the feeling you want to portray when people see your art?
If they feel anything that's alright. Any feeling as long as they don't think too hard. There's no feeling it's just anything, I can't control that side of it.
What is your favourite part of painting and creating?
It's like having no idea what's actually gonna end up there and figuring it out. I just paint to figure things out. Everything’s so crazy and you’ve got all these whirlwinds of feelings and thoughts and it's nice to just put it down on a canvas and sit back and look at it, and the more vivid and immediate you can make it the better. But yea my favourite thing is that thought of what will happen, and I just paint and it's an exciting thing for me.
If you could leave a legacy behind, what would it be and who would it be for?
I can't even answer or think about a legacy, I’m still very caught up in the legacy of the painters that I admire. I think who my art is for is anyone that is in front of it. There is an undeniable thing about when you make a piece, you know that it's gonna be around much longer than you are and so it's sort of like you're trying to live forever (through art).
Where do you dream of creating your art to be displayed?
Anywhere they’ll take me. I just hope that it's treasured wherever it is, in cool homes or warm homes around New Zealand, and if it goes overseas that's cool as well. Because when you see art in galleries and museums, there's something amazing to that, that any person can walk in and see it. It's just special and I treasure the work that we have in our own home from other artists I’ve never met before. So yeah, wherever it is you just hope it's being seen.
How important is art to you and why?
It’s pretty important. It’s kinda everything to me, whether it's music or a great novel, or a great poem, painting or carving. It's such a big question. It's the way we tell stories, it's the way to make sense of it all and be even more confused. It's everything. It's all I can do, it's one of the only things I'm good at, and it's the greatest source of joy, meaning and torment at the same time. I love art because I’m not smart enough to figure out what it means, and I hope I never do, or else the jig is up. Who wants to peel back the curtains?
Click here to learn more about Levi https://www.instagram.com/levikereama/
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