In Tama Sharman’s practice, the world is animated and dark sepia spirits roam as he creates works that involve personal stories, both factual and fictional. For his exhibition Dark Sepia, presented at Incinerator gallery and part of Midsumma (a 22-day queer arts and culture festival in Melbourne), drawing, projection, shadow puppets, sculpture, papier-mâché and found objects will be present. “It’ll be a mix of raw, highly finished and experimental, all at the same time,” says Sharman.
A new influence in this show for Sharman is karetao, Māori puppets. “I am finding out that karetao were used to tell stories and teach whakapapa (genealogy) and to taunt and intimidate enemies. My interest is in how karetao was, is and can be used as a method of storytelling and teaching,” he says. Although some sources are from traditional Māori culture Sharman’s take is contemporary. “I’m not using directly from Māori historical content. I’m making things my way.” The spirit Ariki will be present and represented as a small sculpture of found wood. “He’s shown up from the underworld and he’s got one of my teeth,” says Sharman. “He seems to be leading the way and I imagine he’ll be keeping an eye on the integrity of things.”
The detritus of our everyday lives also informs Sharman’s work. “My material inspiration comes from walking around and observing waste on the street such as rubbish, and recycling them into art objects. I see art and creation in that. I’m lucky because some of these materials are spirits to me.”
This article was originally published in the January/February 2020 print edition of Art Guide Australia.