Twenty years ago Pātaka hosted a young Porirua artist for his first-ever group exhibition. Now Wayne Youle (Ngāti Whakaeke, Ngapuhi, Pākehā) is back for a major solo exhibition.
20/20 words of wisdom, at Pātaka + Museum until 29 March, reflects on life lessons Youle has learned over the past 20 years. The 20-plus artworks include painting, printmaking, sculpture, and installation. The title of the exhibition, and some of the works’ titles, reference sayings Youle’s parents and mentors have said to him. For example a wooden sculpture that alludes to ideas of judgment and things going down like ‘a lead balloon’ is called Heavy is the air we breathe when it is the breath we use for judging others.
Youle’s bicultural heritage was often addressed in his early work, of which a number of pieces are included. I’ll be the one wearing the pink carnation, standing in the corner (sweating) is inspired by the shower-curtain Halloween costume in the cult classic movie Karate Kid (1984) and speaks to the cultural politics and personal identity of Youle as a child of the 1970s and 80s. ‘My sister and I were always aware of our Māori and Pākehā whakapapa,’ says Youle. ‘We tried to be involved with things Māori. Like one early memory was joining the Māori class at Mana College. I was genuinely excited about the possibilities of learning kapa haka and te reo Māori, but my enthusiasm was squashed pretty quickly. Things people said and questions they asked about my appearance had a negative impact. The prospect of having to constantly qualify my ethnicity became a recurrent problem for years to come.’
On 29 February Pātaka is hosting a talk, Milburn on Wayne Youle, in their main gallery. Felicity Milburn, Lead Curator at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, will discuss Youle's art in 20/20: words of wisdom.
First published ArtZone #82