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Canvassing cultural identity

By UCOL on Thursday, 21 April 2016

UCOL School of Photography, Arts and Design Lecturer

School of Photography, Arts and Design Lecturer David Pearce recalls feeling challenged while studying at Massey University for his Masters in Māori Visual Arts.

School of Photography, Arts and Design Lecturer David Pearce recalls feeling challenged while studying at Massey University for his Masters in Māori Visual Arts. "As a non-Māori, I was in an environment where I was the minority, and this provided an interesting position from which to explore my upbringing and identity as a Pakeha."

That experience has inspired David's two year-long research into cultural identity in Aoteroa New Zealand and to stimulate discussion on the topic.

"Pakeha identities have had an element of invisibility, being seen as the norm and not different enough to warrant attention," he says.

David is a Lecturer in Design, Illustration and Theory within the UCOL Bachelor of Applied Visual Imaging and regards his investigation as a natural extension of his Masters studies and personal experiences.

His research has taken an autobiographical approach and draws from his own memories. His large acrylic canvasses use colonial images like paper doilies, patterned wallpaper, and blue willow patterned china.

"I was surrounded by these objects while growing up in old villa homesteads and spending time with my grandmothers."

The importance of symbols and rituals has even inspired him to use a repeated pattern of gravy boats in one of his works. "Roast dinners always featured as a family ritual. Meanings are attached to symbols and as such the interpretation of the works is based on a mix of our social and personal experiences."

David says his work is concerned with the limits of language. "My aim is to use painting to explore the ambiguities between lived experience and our construction of meanings. The intent of the work is to engage with this in a non-didactic, open ended discussion fired by the audience's own memories."

He says being involved in practice-based research greatly enriches his teaching at UCOL. "On the BAVI degree we cover a range topics including cultural identity, post-colonialism and semiotics. Identity is important to our students as it is the basis from which we view the world and interpret phenomenon, including images. Students are challenged to consider their own identities and the impact that image-making has on society."

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