Painting from Life: Mathias Kauage and Family

We are very pleased to present a small yet special collection of paintings by  Mathias Kauage (1944-2003), Papua New Guinea's most celebrated contemporary artist and a founding father of the country's indigenous art movement. His world was one that blurred the boundaries of traditional and contemporary art, where he infused the dazzling colours and imagery of the Chimbu warrior's body decoration with the everyday elements of modern urban life: bicycles, helicopters, city streets.

 One of his paintings depicts Captain Cook's voyage to Australia, with great wit and candour and in bold colour, from the perspective of one who has felt the lasting effects of this initial meeting. Every day, Kauage would present his paintings to the public for purchase on the sidewalk in front of a hotel in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea's main urban centre, where he lived in a small house with his wife and children. In 1987, he was one of four recipients of Sydney, Australia's prestigious Blake prize for Religious Art. His reputation grew internationally, and he travelled throughout Europe, where he met and created a painting for Queen Elizabeth II in 1998. At that time, she bestowed upon him the Order of the British Empire for his contributions to the art of Papua New Guinea. Even while he enjoyed recognition and accolades overseas and a group of followers known as 'pikinini bilong Kauage (children of Kauage) emulated his style at home, he struggled to earn his living in a city not known for nurturing its artists.

 One of Mathias Kauage's followers is quite literally one of his children, his son, Andrew, who presents a vivid image of an airplane filled with passengers resplendent in their traditional dress. Kauage's wife Elisabet is also presenting a painting in this exhibition, giving a woman's perspective on contemporary life in Port Moresby in a scene depicting Mother's Day. While collecting these works in Port Moresby in May of 2004, Alcheringa Gallery was thrilled to be able to interview Elisabet on camera. Below is a short video clip of Elisabet Kauage explaining her painting and describing a Mother's Day tradition in Port Moresby.

 We do hope you enjoy this small selection of paintings by one of the most groundbreaking contemporary artists of Papua New Guinea and his family, and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have. You can view more work by Kauage and other major printmakers of Papua New Guinea by clicking here.

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