Bucklands Beach artist Sofia Minson, who is currently showing a selection of works in her exhibition The Navigators in Queenstown, is working on a book by the same name.
Minson, 33, has painted professionally for 14 years, says preparation for the latest show has been all-consuming.
“This Queenstown exhibition has been a labour of love for the past year. It’s been a deep dive into my mixed heritage, symbolism, myth and spiritual concepts,” she says.
The former Macleans College student’s own heritage is a collision of cultures – Ngati Porou Maori, Swedish, English and Irish.
Minson grew up in New Zealand, Samoa, Sri Lanka and China due to her father’s engineering work. She became interested in the connections between diverse people, cultures and religions.
“Returning home to New Zealand as a teenager, painting the myths, land and people of Aotearoa helped strengthen my link to my Maori roots,” she says.
The Navigators, she says, is a “cosmic supermarket of gods, goddesses, ancient symbols and mythical lands”.
The exhibition features Maori portraits with facial moko, mountainous New Zealand landscapes, animals, birds and “sacred” geometry.
Queenstown’s Artbay Gallery is exhibiting a dozen new, large-scale paintings by Minson until March 1.
White canvases and raw linen backgrounds soak up watery washes of black, ink-like paint. Black and white images of faces and nature are crowned with ornate golden symbols.
“I’m making sacred art that integrates our modern human experience with the wisdom of our ancestors,” says Minson.
“We need aspirational symbols to navigate this strange new world.”
Ancient Maori, Christian and Egyptian myths are brought to life.
“These traditional stories become relevant to our modern-day hero’s journey,” she says.
There are several female portraits. Minson says a thread of Mana Wahine or The Divine Feminine runs through them.
The Navigators series is Minson’s way of “finding meaning as we come out of hundreds of years of scientific materialism and enter into a new magical age”.
Minson has used a new technique in five of the paintings, fusing digital and analogue. She blends ancient and modern processes to create art that is original and, she maintains, relevant.
“I have taken hand-painted forms in my work – portraits, birds and animals. I’ve digitally placed them in a fresh context so they take on new meaning,” she says.
“Using technology, I’ve created symmetries and repeating mandala patterns. Printing them on canvas, I’ve completed the compositions by hand using acrylic and flashe paints.”
When she finishes painting a work she looks at it like one would a dream.
“I find symbols that have bubbled out of my subconscious and I write stories or myths about each painting.
“Ancestors and ideas from the past link with the present. This is how I listen to my higher self and it helps me navigate.”
What’s next? Minson, who lives in west Auckland these days, has staged two exhibitions back-to-back within 16 months so is in the mood for something different.
“I’m open to collaborative projects. I’m also working on a book called The Navigators with images and stories about some of my artworks from the past 14 years of my career.
“And, as always, I will continue to paint daily, with new works coming out in their own good time.”