New Zealand based artist Marcus Hipa – his journey as an artist and questioning peoples’ perceptions of identity

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Have you ever:
Thought about how you make a snap decision about someone based purely on what they look like?
Wondered why an artist would study for a Masters Degree?
Had to deal with parental disappointment because of a decision you’ve made?
Wondered where other artists get their inspiration from?

Vanessa Eden from VOU Dance had a chat with Marcus Hipa about what he thinks on all these questions and more.  Read on…

Hailing originally from the South Pacific Island Niue, Marcus is a well known artist based in New Zealand. He visited Fiji recently to carry out some drawing workshops at Fiji National University and whilst here I managed to grab him for a chat to hear about his journey as an artist and his challenges and successes which I think could be applicable to many artists.

Initial parental concern
After leaving school Marcus was offered a scholarship to become a chef in Fiji. However, he turned this down preferring to follow his artistic dream at the University of Auckland. Unfortunately, the 19 year old Marcus’ vague explanation to his family as to what he was actually going to be doing in Auckland, might have played a part in his family’s initial concerns about his decision to go to Auckland.  However, once his family understood a little more about art and his creative journey, they supported his decision to study art.  I think this is something artists the world over can relate to – family concerns about the decision to practice your passion whether it be painting, dancing or music.



The path of Innovation and creativity and perceptions of identity
Early on in Marcus’ creative journey he asked himself “What do I want to talk about in my art?”. He had learn’t that there is a story behind every piece of art  – “its not just a pretty picture” – and that he needed to focus on his own personal story in his art.  Whilst looking for his story Marcus became interested in peoples’ perceptions of an individual based on how they look and sound, in particular the assumptions some individuals made about Pacific Islanders in New Zealand. These perceptions of identity and culture, and Marcus’ own reflections on these perceptions, then influenced his art and brought him back to his artistic roots of portraiture, where his drawing had begun.

So Marcus came back to portraiture to question perceptions of identity. As part of his curiosity around perceptions of identity he started to experiment with hiding part of the faces that he painted which meant that the viewer interpreted the portrait based on what they can (or can’t) see which can also be how individuals regard each other when they first meet – they only see one part of an individual. This first observation of an individual is what Marcus wanted to question – he wanted people not to make assumptions about other people (and his portraits) based on how they look – by hiding part of the face it is difficult for individuals to make assumptions about the portrait.  In some respects these images can be confronting for people but, to some extent, I think it is a mirror image of when we first meet people – we only know that person purely by the way they look on the outside – it takes time to know what they look like as a whole as we get to learn their personality.


Sharing his art with other artists and students
Recently Marcus completed a Masters degree in Fine Art from the University of Auckland Elam School of Fine Arts Te Toi Hou. One of the main reasons he studied for his Masters is because he loves to spend time with other artists and sharing ideas and emotions with them.  I know some artists can be quite protective of their art but Marcus is happy to share his art with other artists because the end result is still a unique creation.  It is this interest in sharing which has led Marcus to his passion for teaching – he loves seeing how students develop over time and watching their art and personal journey.


One piece of advice
“Be honest about who you are”

Marcus Hipa was interviewed by Vanessa Eden from VOU Dance.  For further information about Marcus, and to see a larger selection of his work, visit his website: http://www.marcushipa.com/

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