My Name is Laken Rotoaira George Tewhiwhi Whitecliffe. This long full name explains a lot about where I am from, and who I am as an artist. I am a New Zealand Maori, Ko Te Arawa te Iwi, Ko Ngati Pikiao te Hapu. I also have ancestors on both sides of my family, who migrated to New Zealand from throughout Europe. I embrace both my European and Maori heritage, and this multicultural background influences my art and life in more ways than one. My late father Greg Whitecliffe was an accomplished artist and educator until he passed away in 2001. He is my major inspiration for studying fine arts, especially with a household covered in artwork.The constant presence of his legacy in Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design is a key component to my growth as an artist.
After studying at Whitecliffe College for two years, I transferred to Montclair State University,located in New Jersey, USA. Being a short train ride from New York exposed me to one of the most vibrant art scenes in the world. While studying, I got to work with some incredible artists, like Julie Heffernan, Seung Mo Park and leading New Zealand artist, Max Gimblett at his studio in the bowery. I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2014, with High honors and excellence awards in painting. I stayed on in the USA, living and working in Brooklyn New York.
I have exhibited my studio work in New jersey, New York, Boston, and Auckland New Zealand. My artwork has many varied styles and subject matter including many sculptural elements with Whakiaro,(Maori Wood Carving) often fused into the painting or framing it. Travel has influenced my work immensely, while traveling I have done public murals in 4 states and on every continent on the planet. This part of my art practice has given me the chance to see the world and connect with the communities and people I have met along the way.
I am currently based in Auckland, New Zealand. I have some exciting exhibitions planned at Princess wharf on the waterfront. These exhibitions will be under the “White Cloud Collective”, An Idea which started in NYC. This collective’s focus is to showcase young and established creative talent. Bringing together as many creative disciplines in one space, from visual artist like myself, to Fashion, Film, Photography, Digital, Sculpture, Music, Poetry, Dance and much more. At the end of the year, I will be on the road again, this time traveling the length of NZ, making murals at local schools along the way. I will be meeting and interviewing creative kiwis to make a video series, showcasing the beauty of New Zealand and the people that call Aotearoa home. After this adventure, I planned to head back overseas to continue my education and set up White Cloud Collective events around the world.