When multi-medium artist Simon Te Wheoro got a supply of fair-trade coffee beans from Raglan’s Trade Aid shop he decided to use them as the basis for the colours in many of his art pieces currently on show at Blacksand Café.

“My mum used to manage Trade Aid and they sponsored me the beans so I began to experiment with different ways to use them on canvas and other surfaces. Its tricky stuff on canvas.” says Simon.

The exhibition is themed around Mauri, eternal energy. Some pieces are personal, about his whanau and whakapapa (geneology). Others reference to whenua — the land.

It is not surprising Simon has developed into a full-time artist. Creating art is in his blood. Dad Andre is a talented designer.

“I grew up watching the old man design beautiful fashion. He could sketch up and sew pieces in no time. Now I live the life of a full time artist. I have a family and responsibilities and the money side can be my biggest stress but this is my chosen life. I’m lucky because I have a range of art forms I work in to balance things out.”

As a boy Simon went through Raglan Area School’s bilingual unit. He remembers learning was rich in narrative and projects had a strong artistic bent. In his last year at high school he attended Te Whare Kura o Rakaumangamanga in Huntly — a college devoted to Maori arts and culture.

From there a year in Christchurch helping at his uncle’s paint and panel shop brought Simon into contact with metals, panelling and painting – skills he now pours into some of his art.

Last year’s exhibition at Blacksand included bold copper pieces shone to a brilliant glow using a grinder.
“I was lucky enough to get a couple of hot water cylinders from my Nana. That’s where the copper came from.”
After Christchurch Simon completed a four year Bachelor of Arts and Advanced Diploma at Toihoukura — a highly regarded Maori contemporary art college in Gisborne.

“We experienced a whole range of really rich artistic processes. We also got involved on Marae DIY-type projects.”

Each piece in his current exhibition has been designed with the wall-space in mind. “To me an exhibition space needs to work to tell a whole story. I’m guided by this as I decide what to create.”

Another project has kept Simon busy lately. Along with sculptor Pakewa Watene he is designing Pou Whenua (sculptured poles) using steel to stand permanently on each side of the new walk-bridge.

“My Pou Whenua will be over on the Kopua side of the bridge. I was really proud to be asked by Waikato District Council through Ngati Mahanga to take this project on. It’s been challenging work involving lots of structural thinking and detail. We’ve blended form and colour into our designs.”

Simon’s exhibition will be at Blacksand for a month. He has left his business card at the café and is happy to talk more about any of his work for sale.

Sue Russell