Simon Kaan (Ngāi Tahu, Kāti Irakehu, Kāti Mako ki Wairewa, Guangzau, Satu Village) paints of disconnection and re-connection. Utilising his characteristic sepia tones and horizontal lines, he depicts a mythological place of land, sea and sky. The surface is divided into enigmatic bands and divisions each building toward a meditative rhythm. It could be ocean swell lines, the horizon point between sea and sky or the grained surface of a bamboo rod. Like narrative points in a journey, land masses, birds and waka painted and engraved into the surface in fine tattoo like ink and ochre lines, float within the fragmented space.
Being of Ngai Tahu, Chinese and European descent, Kaan’s work often incorporates elements of his mixed heritage. There is a certain Chinese aesthetic to the artist’s paintings; a Zen-like tranquillity produced through multiple thin washes of paint and an economy of line. The distinctive Kai Tahu boat or waka motif has for some time featured in Kaan’s repertoire. He sees this as not only a Maori symbol but a universal symbol; a vessel for the living and the dead. ‘The waka forms are myself and also people around me – people who have passed away as well as those who are present.’
Simon Kaan has exhibited regularly throughout New Zealand in both public and dealer galleries. He has curated numerous exhibitions and completed commissions for the likes of the Department of Conservation. In 2007 with the support of Creative NZ and the Gate Gallery Residency Kaan was able to visit Beijing for the third time. He first travelled to China in 2003 - the first member of his family to visit China since his grandfather arrived in Port Chalmers in 1896.