Stefan Wirihana Mau <em>Poutama</em> 2022; colour screenprint and debossing. Commissioned by the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne 2022. Purchased, Victorian Foundation for Living Australian Artists, 2023<br/>
© Stefan Wirihana Mau.

Stefan Wirihana Mau

Stefan Wirihana Mau
(b. 1990, Melbourne. Lives and works in Melbourne)

Stefan Wirihana Mau is an artist of Māori (Ngāpuhi) and Eastern European descent, whose work spans painting, printmaking and sculpture. Seeking to reconnect with his Māori heritage through his artistic practice, Mau often explores indigenous concerns and psychological themes.

For Melbourne Now, Mau’s new print continues his engagement with mau rākau, the Māori weaponry practice that gave Mau an entry point for learning about Māori knowledge, customs, practices and beliefs. The abstract and gestural image is grounded in the symbolism of poutama, a stepped pattern which in traditional tukutuku panels and woven mats signifies genealogies and levels of learning, and in Māori mythology represents the god Tāne-o-te-wānanga’s ascending journey to higher knowledge. For Mau, this correlates with mau rākau grading levels, whose embodied movement and language have been central to his cultural connection.

‘The horizontal plateau represent[s] periods of reflection and time spent developing new knowledge,’ he explains, ‘while the vertical represents a progression to greater understanding’. This also reflects Mau’s learning through the artistic process, where he experimented with layering and weaving, in collaboration with local studio Negative Press.

Mau holds an Advanced Diploma of Visual Arts (2019) and Diploma of Visual Arts (2018) from RMIT University. In 2021 he was a semi-finalist for the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize and a finalist for the Castlemaine Art Museum’s Experimental Print Prize. His work has been exhibited across Melbourne, including recent group shows Process: Movement at Collingwood Yards (2022), Achieving and Undermining Too Many Dinner Parties at RMIT’s Project Space/Spare Room (2019), and A Liminal Space at Collingwood Arts Precinct (2018).