Ian Upokoina George was born in 1952 in Rotorua, New Zealand 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 2001.
In 1988, Ian and his wife Kay moved to Rarotonga. Ian worked at the national college, re-establishing the art department. Over the next 7 years, the George’s established a studio and art gallery. From 1994 – 2002 they returned to NZ where Ian headed the art department at Hillary College in Otara. It was in NZ that they furthered their involved with the Pacific art scene, regularly showing in solo and group shows. Ian & Kay returned to Rarotonga in 2002 and Ian took up the position of Visual Arts Adviser for the Ministry of Education and Lecturer at the Cook Islands Teachers Training College. Together Ian & Kay established ‘The Art Studio Gallery’ in 2006, in the village of Arorangi, hosting regular community group shows along with renowned artists from across the Pacific.
Ian was an avid art educator; carver and painter. He is known for his central focus on the restoration and reinvention of Cook Islands iconography, namely that of traditional gods, in particular the god Tangaroa. Ian’s 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.
Ian participated in workshops, group and solo exhibitions in New Zealand, Rarotonga, Australia, New Caledonia and London. His artworks are held in collections in New Zealand and Internationally. Ian George passed away in 2016.