Although primarily an abstract painter, Darryn George has frequently used letters and numerals in his compositions often offering a more figurative reading than his geometric abstractions may initially suggest. Broadly speaking George’s artistic practice is underpinned by references to his own Christian faith and the series title for these new paintings is Karakia, the Maori word for prayer. It is perhaps not surprising to learn that these works evolved, in part, as a personal response to Christchurch’s deadly earthquake in 2011 which George, a Cantabrian experienced first-hand.
Like the neon signs that hang outside medical centres, block letters form words that are repeated throughout these compositions. As if calling out in prayer or as act of contrition, in their repetition the words become signifiers of hope. Sometimes small as if whispered in the quiet, sometimes large scale as if screamed out in panic.
The titles Rata (doctor), Kaitiaki (keeper), Manukura (leader) reiterate a kind of tangible assurance in their naming of aid practitioners and are also biblical references to God as a Keeper (John 17.12), Leader (Isaiah 55.4) and Doctor (Luke 4.23).
The moko designs behind the text are the beginnings of a new set of symbols within George’s works and also offer a religious interpretation. In Atua a butterfly design refers to Isaiah’s proclamation that those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength; in others snowflakes or waterfalls indicate cleansing and renewal; while a rising star and the glowing effect around the text is metaphor for the shining light in darkness and Jesus as the light of the world. The cloud like glow also references Moses and the Israelite’s journey to Promised Land in which they were directed by a divine cloud.