Thursday, 09 July 2020


Six new artists participating in this year’s Mercury Bay Art Escape Open Artist Studios

By Meg Tatton-Brown

The Mercury Bay Art Escape is excited about several new members artists who will participate in this year’s Open Artists Studios during the first two weekends in March, as well as the guest speaker who will formally open the Open Artists Studios on Friday evening 1 March at Hot Waves Café in Hot Water Beach.

Painter Maria Balan (pictured) is one of the Art Escape’s new member artists. Maria grew up on the Kapiti Coast and later moved to Auckland. She started to call Whitianga home in 2017.  

While living in Auckland, Maria owned a picture framing business as well as an art gallery, where she sold her own artworks as well as the works of other artists.

Maria’s relationship with the arts started at the age of 15 and continues to this day. “My passion for putting brush to canvas is still strong and I hope people can see that in my paintings,” she says. “I also like to draw using charcoal and watercolour pencils.”

Maria paints every day and sometimes has three paintings on the go at once. Her works often feature cloud formations, storms and ocean views. She also experiments with abstract designs using acrylic paint.

One of Maria’s artworks will form part of the Mercury Bay Art Escape Showcase exhibition at Hot Waves Café from 1 March until Easter Weekend this year.

Fatu Feu’u will formally open this year’s Open Artists Studios. He’s a renowned Samoan artist and was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2001 New Year’s Honours List. He has exhibited his artworks both in New Zealand and overseas. His works feature in many private art collections around the world.  

Fatu will address the issue of suicide in New Zealand in his opening address on 1 March. It’s an issue he has previously explored in some of his artwork. “Suicide is hard to talk about, but is a very immediate problem, it’s important to address,” he says.

In 2018, Fatu created a 5.2m wide and 2m tall painting he called “Amuia” - meaning a “blessing” - to draw attention to mental health and suicide in New Zealand.

Fatu draws some of his artistic inspiration from the motifs and iconography of ancient Polynesian art forms, including carving, bark cloth, tattoo and woven work. Using this symbolism, he alters it to fit into a modern context. Aside from painting, Fatu also enjoys wood carving, and print and medallion making.

As a Pacific Island artist working in New Zealand, Fatu continues to weave together the Pacific and European cultures, celebrating the stories and traditions of his people.

Each year the list of artists participating in the Mercury Bay Art Escape Open Artists Studios evolves. Visitors are encouraged to check out the free Art escape 2019 Art Guide and the Mercury Bay Art Escape website ( for all the details of this year’s participating artists.

The other new Art Escape members artists who will participate in this year’s Open Artists Studios are silk painter Gaylene Lonergan (Opito Bay), painter Warwick Lidgard (Rings Beach), fine ink artist Roimata Taimana (Kuaotunu), mixed media artist and photographer Tracey Walker (Pumpkin Hill) and watercolour and pastel artist Debbie Emslie (Tairua).


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