Reinterpreting tradition: Queenstown artist Simon Morrison-Deaker and Te Atamira development director Olivia Egerton with concepts of the Tukutuke panels to be installed in the new arts and cultural hub's bathrooms


Bring on the bling.

Te Atamira Whakatipu Community Trust’s selected renowned Queenstown painter Simon
Morrison-Deaker to deck out the new Remarkables Park arts and culture facility’s bathrooms — but those familiar with his work are in for a treat.

In February, the trust put out a call to artists to submit novel proposals for the  bathrooms, and Morrison-Deaker’s is just that: a theatrical and glamorous reinterpretation of the Tukutuku panel and Taniko engraved patterns which traditionally adorn internal walls of meeting houses, using rhinestones.

‘‘It was more just for modernising and bringing it into a contemporary setting; taking that traditional form and letting it live inside a new space and time.’’

Te Atamira development director Olivia Egerton says the trust blown away by Morrison-Deaker’s proposal, and his move to mixed-medium from abstract paintings embodies what Te Atamira hopes to achieve.

‘‘It’s quite a brave thing for an artist to do, to shift from something you’re really well  known for and take on a different medium.

‘‘That’s a big part of what we’re trying to do at Te Atamira … give people that bravery and that confidence to do things a bit differently, or start for the first time ever.’’

Of Ngai Tahu descent, Morrison-Deaker says he’s worked with local kaumatua Darren Rewi to learn more about the Whakatipu’s history and will bring some of the pre-European themes into the space.

‘‘We wanted to make it nice and shiny and blingy, but also have a cultural reference back to the area,’’ he says.

Egerton says another impressive element to Morrison-Deaker’s proposal was the journey he’s been on to better understand his ancestry.

‘‘It’s always been referenced in some of my works and it just kept coming through more and more and then I had to feel alright about it,’’ he says.

He became more affiliated with Ngai Tahu, primarily through the Karitane marae, and attended workshops with Dunedin artist Simon Kaan which allowed his thinking to change around using his ancestry in his work.

‘‘[It’s] having that confidence to reach into your history, without actually feeling like you owned it to begin with, and then start to use it and then find a place where your work sits inside that.

‘‘Then you can feel like you can independently move forward as a Ngai Tahu ancestor.’’

While the trust’s still on the final fundraising push and work has been slightly delayed, Egerton says they’re aiming to open the doors early next month.