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Artist profile: Ivan Toopi

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Taranaki artist Ivan Toopi is getting in touch with his roots and embarking on the challenge of a Diploma of Art and Creativity (Advanced) - all from the comfort of his home studio. We had a korero with him.

Kia ora Ivan. Let's get to know you – describe yourself as an artist.

It’s been said that I am grassroots and that artistry is inherent in our whanau. I like conceptual art to explore and get my mind bending, but prefer tactile mediums when creating. I’ve had an affinity for 2D drawing and 3D sculpture since a toddler, which was fostered by artistic parents.

prrrrrWhy did you decide to enrol at The Learning Connexion and was it a good decision?

I found at this juncture of my life I wanted three things: Education, Freedom and Creativity. So, after looking at other schools in and around New Zealand, TLC gave the impression of ‘Art’ instead of just ‘University’, and ‘Exploratory Freedom’ instead of ‘Defined Pathway'. I was contemplating another school, but the distance delivery of TLC, and its overall lower barriers to entry is what really sealed the deal.

What are some of the things you enjoyed most about studying at TLC?

The culture and atmosphere.

"Being a part of it whilst being extramural and being able to interact with people outside my sphere but within context, has had a profound impact on me and my worldview. Having mentors who were/are themselves practicing artists was a huge help. It’s the things I didn’t know that really helped me."

And the course and the mentors were one of the ways I was made to feel at ease. Getting back to basics as it were, and focusing on the basics, is what really helped me grow a strong foundation.

How do you sustain your creative practice, where do you draw inspiration from?

As an artist, I am inspired by my mixed Māori and European ancestry. Spirituality and the quest for enlightenment also play a core role in driving my work. Aotearoa’s mixed native and built-up areas serve as strong influences. My childhood was spent in a semi-rural part of Taranaki where we could hunt, surf and mountain climb all in the same day.

Are your skills and approach to creativity transferable into other fields in your life?

There are so many transferable skills that creativity has enlightened me to. A lot of them probably came before I started at TLC, but it was the courses at TLC which enabled me to see the practicality of those things I had already known, and allowed me to employ the skills in known and new contexts. For example, a lot of my pounamu and wood shaping techniques were crossovers from car customization (design, bodywork, paintwork, metalwork etc).

20201207 112947Describe a highlight or 'wow moment' of a recent work or creative experience.

Last year I created some guitars as part of my course. My wow moment came when I could see how other totally disconnected people, were inspired by my work so much, it prompted them to create their own variations, to which I was able to recognise myself. So in other words, I saw my work and how it influenced the work of others, and so I recognised myself in another, and it was this ‘mirror effect’ of self-recognition/self-realization that really shows the interconnected nature of creation/art.

What advice would you give people starting out at The Learning Connexion and wanting to pursue a creative pathway?

Like Nike says,” Just do it.”

Should you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain.

What are your creative ambitions? Where would you like to be in five years?

Like Ash Ketchum from Pokēmon, “I wanna be the very best like no one ever was”…meaning a master of arts. Ideally, I would like to be highly polished in my skillset and level; innovative in my synthesis and approach to conceptualization; making a humble living off my art and artistic capability; and lastly, as an icing on the cake, to be inspirational and worthy of recognition by peers.

I would love to show my children how Art/Toi can still be a way of life in modern society.

How have you transformed during your time at TLC?

The biggest thing to transform for me is my understanding and appreciation of things. learning to ignore the crowd and to take time out and smell the roses, i.e study the art, and learning to express my true authentic self has been a huge transformation. I see a lot of my hesitation to art was shaped by the economic worldview that a lot of people are stuck in. Learning to block out the haters has been a hard road, and is just one of those things in life, so I am highly appreciative of self-discovery.

"I started out having a strong financial influence as motivation for starting in art, but over the years, that part of my character seems to have been ground away by the sheer joy and love for creating and innovating, in the pursuit of personal excellence."

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