James King Exhibition- Paintings give an insight into a troubled mind

There is an excellent interview with James in the Weekend Herald today.
James King’s exhibition,  is Tapu Kehua, opening on Saturday 7 May at 3pm at The Depot Artspace, 28 Clarence Street, Devonport.
An emerging artist from Auckland, James has been attending Toi Ora Live Art Trust over the past few years.  This is his first major solo exhibition.
The exhibition will run until Thursday 19 May 2011.
Here is the article in the newspaper

Paintings give insight into troubled mind

By Sally Webster

10:15 AM Saturday May 14, 2011
 It was sad that as visitors pondered James King’s first major solo exhibition when it opened last weekend, the artist couldn’t be there.

While the former radio talkback host and producer waited months for the chance to fill Depot Artspace with his emotive paintings, he has waited a lot longer to get better. King has been plagued by mental illness for years and his recent secondment to Dunedin’s Ashburn Hall precluded his presence at the show.

So while he was busy working on his health, visitors to Devonport’s gallery were sipping wine and reading the emblazoned words: “The Anzacs died for your iPad.” Political commentary is strong in King’s work and he confronts his inner demons too, as depicted by dogs’ gnashed teeth in many colours. A propensity for softness comes through trickling lines that creep over clouded backgrounds of orange and aquamarine. Lashings of red play a pivotal role.

While some pieces were painted in Dunedin, most of the work was accomplished at Toi Ora Live Arts Trust in Grey Lynn. What was a haven that unveiled King’s artistic talent is officially “a unique shared creative space … for adults who have come in contact with mental health services”. Toi Ora general manager Erwin van Asbeck says it has been fascinating to watch King work.

“Together with his other areas of treatment, even just the discipline of coming and going at set times to a place to work on art has been a hugely healing and balancing process,” he says. “What’s been produced during James’ journey towards mental health is exceptional and it stands on its own two feet.”

On his last day of painting before heading south, King cut out the shapes of the Tapu Kehua for the exhibition. Absorbed with shaping the right curves of the “sacred ghost or spirit”, King offered his usual comic scepticism on the next few months in a “therapeutic community”.

“I might be back up within a week if I have to pass a hacky sack around the room as part of a group therapy practice. Seriously, I’ve encountered this once before and it was just too much.”

King, who was adopted, did not meet his birth mother until he was in his 20s. He says he always knew something was brewing inside him and certain things made more sense when he discovered his mother was schizophrenic. He was not fiercely beset by dark moods and voices until his radio career had taken off in his late 20s. Then-general manager of Newstalk ZB Bill Francis recalls meeting him as he started out.

“He came to me around the early 2000s and asked if I’d give him a chance on air. He clearly had a strong political leaning and could talk knowledgeably about it as well as a large range of social issues of the day. He showed empathy and could relate to a wide range of people.

“I saw him about once a week for more than three years and what was quite obvious was his considerable talent, rationale, curiosity and ability to think. What I also saw in him was a good person.”

But King began to develop difficulties with alcohol, sleeping and generally dealing with working at night. He left the company and moved to Wellington to do a journalism degree and produce more radio shows. But with personal issues including family bereavement to deal with, he was finally overwhelmed and hospitalised. There ensued a pattern common to many with mental illness who, like King, did not have a supportive family nearby at the end of a period of treatment in hospital. Without a place of further healing, the streets became home instead.

“You see the really ill people wandering the streets, picking cigarette butts from the ground. They’ve got dirt under their fingernails,” says King. “Mental illness at its worst can be people rifling through rubbish bins in the dead of night. It’s scary. I understand that. I don’t like those people … and I was one of them.”

King wanted to come out about his illness to make a concerted recovery and alter perceptions of the condition. Last year he worked on a Planet FM mental health radio show and during October’s Mental Health Week he held his first exhibition, MC’d a fundraising gig in Karangahape Rd and contributed these words to a poetry anthology:

This should not be my only option,

I will not live here; you must give me a room in the heart of life,

I will not survive under a bridge, at the dump, in a park,

at the margins in the dark.

I challenge you to come to me, to hold my hand, embrace my heart.

I challenge you to tell the truth, cast aside the angle, cut the hook, search for the marrow.


What: New Works by James King

Where and when: Depot Artspace, Devonport, to May 19 2011

Did Van Gogh Hear Voices?

Some say that the reason that Van Gogh cut off his ear was because he was hearing voices. I guess we will never know. However many voice hearers are extremely sensitive and creative people.

Here is a quote I read, written by him, which I think is very apt.

“If you hear a voice within you say “you cannot paint,” then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.
Vincent Van Gogh “

Man experiences Life Changing Moment in Prison

Campbell Live on Tv3 news interviewed this man, who saw a Tupuna( ancestor) come through the roof and touch him.

Steve Hikaiti has done a lot of bad things in his life, and spent a lot of time in jail – 29 years in and out.

But something happened to him while he was in Mt Eden prison that changed his life forever.

From that point on, he became an artist, and he has been quite successful.

So much so that an Auckland gallery has taken him on and is holding an exhibition for him on Saturday.

Mr Hikaiti says his calling came when he was in Mt Eden prison in 1987.

“I donno if it was a mental breakdown or anything like that, but I felt like I needed to talk to the staff because I thought I was going looney,” he says.

“What happened was this tupuna came through the roof, and just touched me on the nose, and when I woke up the next day I could actually draw his face – the detail.”

But as quickly as that detail came, it was lost again, until recently when he began to draw full time.

He got the bug at school but that landed him in trouble.

“I used to get kicked out because I’d be drawing in the books and on the desk,” he says.

“My mind would not be with the class, it’d be outside the window, day dreaming, creating things in my mind. It was my own safe place.”

Mr Hikaiti is no angel – he has a criminal record for burglary, assault and aggravated robbery, for which he served nine years inside.

He was kicked out of home when he was nine because he was too much trouble.

When he was not in jail, he roamed the streets.

“Jail became home, in a way,” he says.

“Jail was my life, was my home.”

Now his home – and workspace – is an Auckland apartment.

When he is not drawing, he is pacing around waiting for the ideas to flow.

“I don’t know if it is the right process because I’m self-taught.”

His work has struck a chord with the art community. Gallery owner Clayton Smith liked what he saw, and has been showing and selling Mr Hikaiti’s work for four months.

“He is now an active member of society,” says Mr Clayton.

“He is producing beautiful pieces of art and that is his passion, he has found his way through his art.”

Mr Hikaiti’s first series of limited edition prints are now on display in galleries around the North Island, and on Saturday he will have his first exhibition.

“We’re selling a few a week actually so people are actually seeing it, loving it, and want it on their walls.”

See the video on this link above.

Mind U Theatre Live performance- by Toi Ora Artists

For all who attended the Hearing Voices Network Aotearoa NZ June 2008 AGM, you will no doubt remember this performance. The Drama group at Toi Ora Live Art trust wrote and peformed this drama piece to better highlight what the experience of hearing voices can be like for a person. Or in this case two people. This was the first time the group had performed in front of an audience and they all did exceptionally well. Everyone loved it.

I hope you enjoy it too, and will help you to better understand why voice hearers often seem unable to concentrate!!

For more information on the courses that Toi Ora give please go here