KŪKA’ILIMOKU (OR KŪ)
This is an image of an ancient Hawaiian deity associated with warfare. These figures appeared in temples (heiau) dedicated to war. One of the finest surviving embodiments of ‘Kū’ is a large wooden sculpture in the collection of the British Museum in London; the other is in the Bishop Museum in Honolulu. This enigmatic creature is one of many deities within a prolific Polynesian cosmology. Early animistic faiths such as Japan’s Shinto tradition and those in pre-Christian Europe share interesting similarities to the cultural context in which Kū appeared.
The face of Kū carries a strong psychological presence within my work, anchoring a wider narrative within the image of a semi-human, anthropomorphic form. As an archetype, he moves through time and space, and within my personal cosmology he connects a series of historical events in the Pacific spanning several centuries to contemporary and universal themes of aggression and conflict. (See ‘The Pool at Crystal City’) Today Kū ‘s image has been appropriated by popular culture, his powerful and aggressive posture morphing into the ubiquitous ‘tiki’ souvenir, a commodity on par with the pink flamingo or garden gnome. From sacred to profane, his image can be perceived as both menacing and cartoon-like.