Te Kore / Te Ao (the Intrinsic Light within Nothingness) by Tanya Ruka

I first encountered Tanya Ruka’s work in the winter of last year, when she had an amazing exhibition titled Whiriwhiri-ā-Rōpū at Corban Estate Arts Centre, Henderson (click on the title for an artsdiary image of the exhibition).  I wanted to write about her work then, yet that was an era pre-blog, and so I’m making up for lost time now 🙂

Te Kore / Te Ao (the Intrinsic Light within Nothingness) explores our landscape through a cosmological lens.  Ruka (Ngapuhi and Waitaha) draws upon Māori cosmology for the title of the exhibition: Te Kore was the state before sound, which was followed by Te Ao the world of light.  The literal translation of Te Kore is ‘the nothing’ yet it is believed to contain the energy of potential, and she finds inspiration from ‘this in between state of liminal space.’[1]  Thus, through utilising light and patterns, specifically those found in Māori weaving and carving, Ruka delves into this space of limitless potential.

For information on the works and a few images, please click on the link below:

The titular work (2013, digital HD manipulation) consists of two projections, side by side, both filled with small circles in a 3 x 4 formation.  Each of these spellbinding circles contains individual images based on Ruka’s drawings over the last few years.  Looped pulsating videos of grass, buildings and the ocean become distinguishable over time, as these circles appear, disappear and change colour, like a graceful dance.  Similarly the background modulates its hue; at one point one projection is white, and the other black – light and darkness, life and death, an infinite cycle. There are a number of images and patterns that occur in this video; endless combinations are presented, and there is something universal about these boundless possibilities.  It made me think about how whole planets and galaxies can differ, and how no human on our entire planet is exactly the same.

I was also drawn to Ruka’s wonderful video Rangaranga (2013, digital HD manipulation) by its strong geometrics and mirrored imagery that are evident in Māori weaving.  The looping of this work is alluring and hypnotic, like weaving at warp speed, and at times it resembles a never-ending travelator.  It took me a while to realise (okay, I read the wall label 😛 ) that it was actually images of grass and the sky, flickering and rustling in a gusty wind. Specifically this patch is the paepae, the area in front of her family marae that is like a threshold.  It is where you can have a dialogue with others and seek wisdom from your ancestors, effectively a space in between, where understanding and creativity can foster.  I like that Ruka’s works seem both otherworldly and temporal, and I am fascinated by how they point to the passage of time, and how creation is repetitive yet different.

Te Kore / Te Ao (the Intrinsic Light within Nothingness) is in the Audio Visual Room at the Pah Homestead, Hillsborough until Sunday 15th June 2014.

For more info on Ruka, check out her blog!

And she will be in a group exhibition coming up at Northart Gallery, Northcote, called Te Toi Hou – Contemporary Maori Art at the end of this month.  Click on the link for more photos:

I hope you are all keeping warm this winter!  Or cool this summer for you Northern Hemispherers 🙂


˟Update 02.02.17: Some of the links on this post were old, I have updated it with Ruka’s new blog and photos from Artsdiary.

[1] ‘Tanya Ruka: Te Kore / Te Ao (the Intrinsic Light within Nothingness),’ TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, accessed May 23, 2014,