Born in Auckland in 1983, Webster followed family members before him in attending Te Aute College in the Hawkes Bay, where he made a conscious decision to dedicate himself to learning and achieving in a Maori context. During his five years at Te Aute, Webster immersed himself deeply in traditional Maori art forms of Whakairo (carving), painting and clay. The young artist learnt the basics of building shapes and simple methods of firing from Mark Daspher, who encouraged Webster to take his art further and develop his talent as a possible career path. Currently in his final year of a Bachelors degree in Contemporary Maori Visual Arts at the Tairawhiti Polytechnic in Gisborne, Webster enjoyed tuition where he was given the freedom to establish his own styles and themes, along with the guidance of established and renowned Maori artists.
Webster’s sculptural practice is currently involved with his cultural connections with the ocean – a theme which has led him to address the issue of Takutai (foreshore). He depicts faces as masks and as vessels with powerful and angular features, representative of the many people who enjoy what the ocean has to offer. Being such a diverse source of nourishment and creation, Webster views the sea as an overwhelming presence, inherent in the lives of all New Zealanders and a strong influence on our sense of identity. The sea is a base, both for our heritage and our plans for the future - separating and isolating us as unique while connecting our shores with those beyond.
Webster develops a connection with the ocean and the land not only through the choice of relevant political themes, but also through the more elemental components of texture and the tactile qualities of each piece. Like the feel of wet sand, the grooves of sea-worn wood or the patterned surface of a pipi shell, works present carefully textured surfaces, the detail of which provides a satisfying foil to the minimalism of Webster's abstract faces. Created in the natural material of clay, pieces link past and present, new and old, traditional function and symbolic form - carrying forward the mantle of Maori art that sees traditional values and narratives finding expression in new materials and contemporary themes.
Qualifications: Bachelor of Contemporary Maori Visual Arts Te Toi o Nga Rangi, Tairawhiti Polytechnic, Gisborne (completing final year)
Awards and Distinctions: Te Waka Toi/Creative New Zealand Scholarship (2006); Recipient of Toi Iho Maori Made Mark (2006); Awarded ‘Ruanuku’ Scholarship, Tairawhiti Museum and Art Gallery, Gisborne (2005)
Public Exhibitions: Tairawhiti Museum and Art Gallery, Gisborne (2001-2005); Pataka Museum and Art Gallery, Porirua (2002-2005); The Dowse, Lower Hutt (2002)