|ART GALLERY NEWSLETTER
PETER JEAN CALEY
|This is certainly the case with Master Kiwi Maori Artist Peter Jean Caley of New
Zealand(AOTERAROA),who inspires mystical reactions among the viewers of his art.
pictures.The preservation and sharing of Maori culture with all the world is ensured by the
presence of Caley and his work.His work of preservation extends to the environment from
which the culture arose,as well. Many of his paintings portray endangered species and
landscapes that suffer due to human encroachment,and connecting the viewer to those
environments potentially has the power to assist in changing hearts and minds,and
engendering commitment to,and understanding of the environmental principles intrinsic to
Maori culture and traditional life ways. The diversity of the human,animal and elemental
world,and the spirit that permeates all three worlds, is preserved and illuminated through
the visionary work of Caley.
Caley"s colours are vivid and exquisite, almost surreal in their intensity. Layers of spirit
seem to inhabit the flat planes of his canvasses. It feels as though you can view reality
through the eye of God, if only for a moment. Caley expresses the phenomena this way.
" If an artist can just take you into your inner being out of the conscious to the very soul
and essence for just 30 seconds-- then a miracle has occurred. In my art, the soul is
important, the thought, feeling and depth that the subject emits surpasses its first and
obvious impact to the eye. A real integrity emerges from the subject and a thousand words
and emotions pass through to the viewer." Looking at a Caley painting is like seeing life for
the first time,through the eyes of a mystic seer, rather than merely rendering an image.
Caley reveals the true transformative and generative spirit within whatever image he
projects. Even his birds seem to have wisdom,a mystical awareness of the viewer,as if they
are looking into the viewer"s soul and seeing the true indivual behind the eyes.
Light dances impressionistically across the surface of Caley"s paintings,but in a revelatory,
rather than exlporatory way. Caley has something to say beyond the nuances of shadow
and light, he reveals the sparkling incandescent and ephemeral reality of the spirit in all its
magical glory. One feels as though it is possible to look through the painting to a larger
world of great and seminal siginificance.
A story is told about the exquisite portrait of the lovely Lisa, wherein a smudge on the
canvas over the right shoulder of Lisa appeared. The face of her great-grandmother
emerged in the painting, almost as if it came on its own. Caley incorporated the image,its
almost as if the painting itself had something to say, and it used the medium of Caley to say
Caley"s work has been called "inspirational realism". His work is representational in terms of
what exists in reality on more than one plane of existence. Caley proves that, just like reality
can be stranger than fiction in literature, artistic realism can be more abstract than
abstraction. On the practical, compositional level, Caley works freehand, allowing forces of
inspiration to guide him. His attention to detail has a naturalists precision, yet his work is not
that of a clinician. Although he has mastery of his subject, matter and colour, his focus is on
capturing the heart and spirit of the person,animal,object, or landscape.
From childhood, Caley seemed to know that his destiny was to become an artist. He
followed in the footsteps of both his grandfather and father,who were both artists. At the
age of two it was already evident that the young Peter had a love and talent for
painting,and he had already committed to the life of an artist by the time he was thirteen.
Caley says,"My art is my life-it has been the only real passion". Caley worked
independently and only declared himself a "professional artist" in 1988.
Artistic genius is often found rooted in rich cultural ground. Such is the case with Caley."I
have before been associated with great Italian painters by my peers," says Caley,"and this
is ironic as my ancestry is, indeed, of Italian stock. My grandfather, Chalas Scaringi, came
to New Zealand with his 2 brothers in the 1840's and established himself here. Thats where
I get my Italian side from.
zAnd where did Caley get his artistic influence? "All my Family on the male side were
painters," he says. "My Great grandfather was a very good painter. My own Father painted
realist landscapes. My Grandfather Chalas Scaringi, was from near Milano. His wife was
from Sicily. I have 16 known relatives in Sicily and 45 families in and around Milano and
Naples. "It was suggested to me to research my Italian history as my father explained to me
we have a famous artist in our blood line."
Besides Italian, there is also Maori blood in Caley's family. Chalas Tamas Scaringi married
Erihapeti Lopa, the Daughter of Kou Kou, the daughter of Te Kapu, who is the founder of
our 1848 treaty for our Maori tribe." Caley is descended from the Ngai Tahu/ Waitaha tribe
on the south Island.
Through the birth of Peter on October 27, 1957, there was a uniting of cultures Italy and
New Zealand, European and Polynesian cultures. Caley, himself, is literally an embodiment
of human love and unity beyond borders. His synergistic art reflects this union with Maori
subjects in the style of the great Italian painters.
Despite such a rich, family and cultural heritage, one of the ruling forces in Peter Caley's
personality is humility. When he was commissioned to paint a portrait of Ko Mauria, a
beloved Maori tribal leader of great renown, he at first declined through pure humility,
thinking he wasn't competent enough to paint the portrait of such a great lady.
Living to be over 100 years old when she left this world, Mauria's last wish was to have her
face and message to the world live on beyond both time and space. Mauria asked that "
people live as one and in harmony with one and other" Says Caley,
After much thought to the project, Caley finally decided he would do the portrait, which took
him two years to accomplish. How ever in completing this work, he had fulfilled Mauria's final
It is evident that Mauria chose well.
The story of this painitng is told by Peter Caley himself in this way.
I was under a promise to paint Mauria, but I had refused at first through fear and doubt.
The reason was because Mauria was one amazing woman who commanded enormous
respect from a great number of people. She had a wonderful passion for life and people,
and her life was very exemplary. In brief, Mauria was a towering personality that
commanded great respect by all.
I only new her when I was a child, but her memory was kept vivid and alive through her
grand daughter Ruby. " So, when I was commissioned to do her portrait, I was extremely
intimidated. How ever, my family insisted that I must start the painting, Mauria's grand
daughter Ruby, who was aging, also pushed me to start. But I kept hesitating simply
because I knew that Mauria was a very special person-almost saintly, and I felt inadequate
to give Ruby what Mauria deserved. " Mauria's promise to me was, you paint my portrait
and I will take you to the world".I knew that the reason Mauria wanted a portrait was purely
an unselfish one, she wanted the painting done so it would be there for people after her
death to bring love and harmony to all, no matter what creed or religion.
"Mauria was a nurse through both world wars and passed her history to all. She was from
the town of Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty and was deeply into tradition in keeping the Maori
The painting took nearly 2 years to finish, but made an instant impact on both the families
and the public. It was poorly received from the main stream art world in New Zealand
originally, I think this was mainly because of fear and we are not the most advanced art
culture in the world. Happily this is changing here now.
Mauria is now classified as my signature painting and very dear to me. She has featured in
all my exhibits here and internationally. The majority of people who view the painting say, "
If you smile at her, Mauria will smile back" this is the most spoken quote.
Over the past 7 years it has been quite an amazing experience for me to see 1000's of
people stop in there tracks on viewing the original portrait of Mauria.
The tears and comments have filled over a dozen large guest books. The digital photo's of
the portrait don't really do her justice.
"Finally, I must state in all truthfulness, although I was the one holding the brush, the
portrait painted itself almost forcefully. I do not see a painting in this portrait any more, but
a real soul who is still very much alive and living. People who see this painting up close also
see this and even talk to her.
After having completed the first portrait of Mauria, Caley went on to paint numerous other
Maori portraits which have been on display at the national Te Papa museum. Mauria and
other historical paintings are permanently on display at the Peter Jean Caley Art Gallery
and Museum in Geraldine, South Canterbury, New Zealand ( Worth is estimated at
$6,000,000). His famous rendering of Black Magic NZL60 (New Zealands America's cup
winner) can be seen on permanent display at the Auckland Maritime Museum.