Ian ‘Upokoina’ George was a painter, sculptor, curator and avid art educator. Born in 1952 in Rotorua, New Zealand, Ian was of Rarotongan and Atiuan descent. He graduated with a Marsters in Fine Arts from Te Toi Hou, Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland University in 2002. He was also a former Chair of the Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust.
Ian George’s art work is known for its central focus on the restoration and reinvention of Cook Islands iconography within a contemporary timeframe, in particular, the traditional Cook Islands deity Tangaroa. His engaging, multi-layered works sought not only to re-affirm his identity, but also served as a way to preserve the history and dignity of the spiritual beliefs held by pre-missionary Cook Islanders. “The art I have made over the years has been a personal journey where I have been reclaiming and reaffirming my identity as an artist of Cook Islands descent. I continue the traditions of our Ariki (traditional chiefs) and use the painted and sculptured form to tell the histories, spiritual beliefs and experiences of Cook Islands people’s, past, present, future.”
Ian participated in many workshops, group and solo exhibitions including projects in New Zealand, Rarotonga, Australia, New Caledonia and London. His exhibition CV is extensive and his artworks are held in collections around the world. Ian George passed away in 2015.
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