Para Matchitt: Painter and Sculptor
Para Matchitt comes from the East Coast; he was born near Tokomaru Bay and spent most of his childhood at Te Kaha. After this he went to St Peter's Maori Boys' College in Northcote, then to Auckland Teachers' College. It was there that he became interested in art, and after leaving the Teachers' College he spent a year in Dunedin taking a course in the teaching of art and crafts. After this he took a position as an art and crafts specialist with the South Auckland Education Board.
Apart from his time in Dunedin he has had no formal training in art, and it is only during the past two years that he has exhibited his work. But he is already becoming widely known as an artist, and he has received a number of commissions for his sculpture.
Began As Abstract Painter
Mr Matchitt began as an abstract painter; it is only recently that he has turned to figurative painting. Some of his formal motifs are derived from motifs found in Maori art. Using these in an entirely original way, he has evolved a robust and vigorous style which is very much his own. The starting-point for his paintings is usually a traditional Maori story, but though the reference to the story gives his work another dimension of meaning, here again his interpretation is an entirely new one; like all good artists, he is interested in doing something which has not been done before.
Two of his paintings were hung in this year's National Bank mural competition. One of them, ‘Te Wehenga O Rangi Raua Ko Papa’ is illustrated on page 28. The strength and unity of design of this painting, its vitality and directness, and its attractive muted reds and ochres, would surely make it a wonderful mural. I wonder if any of the other people who saw the exhibition felt as I did, that for this purpose it would be more satisfying than the more academic and anecdotal painting which won the competition.
Most of his sculpture so far has remained closer than his painting to the old Maori designs, but here again the traditional style is interpreted in a spirit unmistakably his own.
Photography by Ans Westra
The sculpture on the opposite page represents Kiwa, god of the sea, diving up through the water. The painting below is entitled ‘Whiti te Ra’, from the haka, ‘Ka Mate Ka Mate’.
Para greatly enjoys his work in the schools, but his weekends are especially precious ones, for as he travels to schools as far south as Opotiki, he can spend only the weekends with his wife and two small daughters at their home in Hamilton.