Kay George is a multi-media artist and textile designer, born in Rotorua, New Zealand. For the last thirty years Kay has been based in Rarotonga, regularly showing her work in local and international exhibitions.
In her twenties, Kay took to painting cotton and linen fabrics, selling them at local markets in Sydney, Australia where she eventually opened a boutique with a friend. Kay produces works in several mediums, layering colourful paintings, photographs and screen prints on clothing, fabrics, wood, furniture, canvas and tiles. “In the early day in Rarotonga, it was hard to find art supplies. This meant that I had to use whatever materials I had at my fingertips, which led to some interesting pieces – painting on wood and dried banana leaves. With no galleries on the island, I was involved in the first community show which was held on the veranda of the Banana Court with another show later held at Paradise Inn in 1989”.
In 1994, Kay and Ian returned to New Zealand and became involved with the Pasifika art scene, showing their work in solo and group shows. In 2000, her printed fabrics were featured at the Biennial of International Design in Lyon, France. Returning to Rarotonga in 2002 with her husband, the late Ian George, they pursued the dream of opening their own art gallery. “We opened the doors of the Art Studio in Dr. Fariu’s old building and had funky, amazing group exhibitions. In 2006, we built a dedicated exhibition space and from then until 2016, the Art Studio hosted community group shows along with renowned contemporary artists from the Pacific. For many idyllic years, we lived what I consider the artist’s dream”.
Kay utilizes paint, ink, textiles & collage to create artworks that capture her observations of the vibrant island environment and culture that surrounds and permeates her every-day life. In 2006, Kay presented the solo show Endangered Species. “As an outsider married to a Cook Islander, I have had the privilege of observing the community through these eyes. When we first moved here, I noticed how the kids would run freely and neighbours would sit on the walls in the evenings telling stories. Soon hedges on the island were being cut down to make way for wooden fences. Concrete walls followed not long after”. Observing these changes, Kay began taking photographs of friends and family in the community. “I took photos, put them on silkscreens and printed the images as a social commentary and visual documentary of the changes”.
In 2010, Kay Georges works were included in the BCA group show MANUIA, shown in New York City. Of her works for Manuia, the artist states ‘This body of work using digital media demonstrates the layers that exist within the local island community that has over 400 years moved from an indigenous Polynesian people with its own belief systems to a people that have shifted to a zone of mixed cultures, confident in the first world, competent in the digital world, rebranding themselves according to their age group and interests’.
On a typical day in her workshop, you can find Kay floating between screening pareau’s, painting blocks of colour onto canvas, and taking photographs for new prints. She states, “I tend to work fast, moving between projects, continually adding layers. I began dying organza silk in 2018 and created folding silk screens to show how art-work can be used as functional room dividers. Digital art is replacing a lot of formal art and so I have continued to investigate new technologies and new surfaces to create on.”
Kay has featured in solo and group exhibitions in Rarotonga, New Zealand, Australia, France and the United States.
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