Peata Larkin continues to push her painting practice as a means to explore the complexities of socio-cultural histories, notions of script and inscription, and the material properties of the medium.
Larkin’s art practice is a way of inscribing her stories using a visual language derived from her Tūhourangi, Ngāti Whakaue and Tūwharetoa traditions as well as her experience and knowledge of Western art history. It is interesting to compare her starkly linear 2018 compositions with the more irregular forms seen in her 2019 works. The references to the geometries of tukutuku and taniko weaving are clear in Aitanga (2018) and Throw Your Arms Around Me (2018) and the titles suggest the spiritual and cultural support of ancestors who are part of Larkin’s past, present, and future. The works are also replete with allusions to female pioneers of abstract painting such as Agnes Martin and Bridget Riley. I Will Follow You (2018) may be read as an homage to Martin’s gridded works, which she considered imbued with a personal spirituality.
The series of paintings produced in 2019 see Larkin continue to work with woven grids but she also experiments with disrupting and obliterating their linear constraints. There is a rhythm of colour and form that pulses in Sweet Water (2019) and the eye searches for order. As time passes, the viewer realises that the painting possesses a structured regularity but that it is a physical function of the underlying fabric rather than Larkin’s application of paint.
The word ‘descendant’ suggests the convergence of innumerable bloodlines to a single point and implicit within this is the concept that an individual is not only part of a multitude but contains a multitude. Larkin’s most recent works are painterly expressions of this and explore the ways in which parts comprise a whole and vice versa. Up close, the irregular figures separate into pixels of paint but stepping further away from the canvas, each coloured shape itself becomes part of a larger pattern. Recalling the replication of bacteria or moulds in a petri dish, colour blooms across the surface of the works to create a cohesive body of texture, form and hue.
The artist’s hand is especially visible in her deliberate weighting and placement of colours, which coalesce and flow across the surface. The white-painted background reveals the ordered warp and weft of the cloth Larkin uses as the base grid for each work; its regularity emphasises the organic forms produced by the artist’s technique of pushing paint through the fabric. Larkin carefully controls her materials: in places, paint agglomerates in thick, raised layers and these are surrounded by underlying dot matrices that thin out into ever-smaller, lone spots.
Peata Larkin deftly syncretises the ‘scripts’ of her ancestors and of Western abstraction to form her own lexicon of pattern and symbol. This allows the artist to encode layers of meaning in her paintings, ensuring that they are embedded in the many worlds through which she walks.