Ian George

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A founding member of the Cook Island Arts Association and Chairman of the Tautai Pacific Art Trust, George has been instrumental in the promotion of Pacific Art at both national and international level. In 1988, George relocated to Rarotonga to explore his family's Cook Island heritage and to re-establish the art department at the national college, Tereora, before returning to New Zealand in 1995 to oversee the art department at Hillary College in Otara. In 1998, he curated Paringa Ou, the first major exhibition of contemporary art by Cook Island artists residing in New Zealand, which travelled to the National Museum in Fiji and was shown at the Fisher Gallery in Auckland in 1999. In 2002, George returned permanently to the island of Rarotonga to take up the position of Visual Arts Adviser for the Ministry of Education and lecturer at the Cook Islands Teachers College.

Born in Rotorua in 1952, Ian George is a prominent painter, carver and educator of Cook Island descent who has been exhibiting professionally in both New Zealand and internationally for over twenty years. George graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts from Elam School of Art at the University of Auckland.

As an exponent of the contemporary Pacific style, George's work implements the bold colour and stylised motifs typical of Pacific art,using these attributes as a vehicle for the more political themes of cultural imperialism, the loss of cultural control and the international dispersal of indigenous cultural artefacts. George's work frequently refers to Cook Island's totems and guardians, particularly the symbol of the Tangaroa, the Cook Island's God of the Sea and Creation, which is used as protection on inter-island voyages. These totems represent the necessity of protecting cultural heritage, and further the image of the artist as cultural warrior - defender of the Cook Island's cultural tradition.

As George affirms, "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 Cooks descent. I continue the traditions of our ariki and use the painted and sculptured form to tell the histories, spiritual beliefs and experiences of Cook Island peoples, past, present, future".

George has exhibited widely in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands and his work is held in private and public collections in both New Zealand and around the world.

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