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Born in 1964 in Saint Symphorien-sur-Coise, a village near Lyonin France, Isabelle Staron-Tutugoro is a self-taught artist. Since1996, Staron-Tutugoro has lived in the village of Poindimié, Northern Province, New Caledonia, surrounded by the vibrant and historic Kanak culture. This exposure, combined with an intense interest in indigenous symbolism in the form of rock-carved petroglyphs, has led her to explore other Pacific Island cultures. The past seven years have been spent researching petroglyphs in New Caledonia, Samoa, Cook Islands, Tasmania, Australia, Hawaii, EasterIsland, Vanuatu and Tahiti.
Staron-Tutugoro utilises representations of petroglyphs found in her family's ancestral lands in the Nambai valley, North-East New Caledonia as repetitive motifs in her woodcuts and mixed media paintings. These petroglyph motifs are arranged around common thematic elements such as the anthropomorphic or native New Caledonian religious iconography. As Staron-Tutugoro explains: I believe these petroglyphs were carved to leave us a history, knowledge or a story regarding particular families, tribes or clans. I interpret them through my works as different stages of the circle of life: birth, pregnancy, family I feel something special, mysterious, and sacred in their presence. The rocks onto which the original petroglyphs were carved are enormous, and you can feel only humbled and respectful in front of such amazing works- especially with the knowledge that they were created without the use of power tools! I pay tribute to the culture and heritage of the Kanak people, to whom I direct my work.
Since 2001, Staron-Tutugoro has divided her life and work between New Caledonia and New Zealand, where she has the mentorship and support of renowned Samoan-NZ artist Fatu Feu'u, considered the father of contemporary Pacific art. She has exhibited her work in New Zealand, the South Pacific and Europe since 1996.