Carver trades chisel for paintbrush

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Carver turned graphic artist Ranga Tuhi rekindled an aptitude he had not used for a dozen years when he became involved in an upgrade of the Porirua Railway Station.

Mr Tuhi (Waikato, Ngati Maniapoto) has designed and painted a 33m-long mural that has just been installed along with nine other murals totalling about 300m in the exit and entry ramps of the stations subway.

I used to paint portraits, he says. I found it stimulating using a skill I hadnt practiced for a long time.

During his studies for a Bachelor of Design at Masseys Wellington campus, he combined his knowledge and experiences with newly acquired skills of computer generated graphics, resulting in the design and production of a new carved pou tuarongo that in 2008 he gifted to the campus marae, Te Kuratini. A book he has written and designed about the pou is due to be published later this year.

Since completing his degree, he has taken on two large projects. One was the carving of a 9m ancestral pou installed in Queenstown in January, his biggest carving project to date.

The Porirua mural is also huge. Like the other artists involved in the project, Mr Tuhi had never done anything on such a scale. This was outside the square. The highlight has been watching it take shape.

Trevor Mason from the Porirua City Council says the murals were initially outside of the scope of the upgrade project. However, after seeing the mock-up of what the finished works would look like, the other partners in the upgrade, including the Greater Wellington Regional Council, Ontrack and Kiwi Rail, were impressed with what they saw and the mural installations became part of the wider project, Mr Mason says.

The project has evolved since it started about seven months ago and involves 11 mostly local artists, he says. One of the skills Ranga brought to the project was his leadership skills and he has credibility, Mr Mason says. Because of that he appointed Mr Tuhi as the project manager with responsibility for cutting and preparing the plywood boards and working with the other artists.

We got the artists together to brainstorm the theme and criteria for evaluation and moderation, the themes were dreamscape, community, legends and multicultural, they had to be of a high quality mural art something people would gravitate to. Ranga had some great suggestions. Using his Photoshop skills, he was able to show the work as if they were installed into the station.

Ranga was recommended by our HR department, others were people who had worked on other projects, local artists, says Mr Mason.

The mural painted by Mr Tuhi depicts the story of how Pari-rua meaning two tides was named by the M?ori explorer Kupe and the subsequent name change to Porirua after the arrival of Captain James Cook.

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