Ian Kuali’i is a multi-disciplinary self-taught artist of Hawaiian and Apache ancestry working in the forms of large-scale hand cut-paper, murals, prints, and site-specific installations. From a single sheet of paper using only an xacto blade as Kuali’i’s tool, his detailed hand-cut paper portraits; journal entries and scenes are masterfully rendered with a blend of loose urban contemporary techniques. “One can’t erase a razor line so the process teaches me to be patient and gentle while at the same time destroying to create”. The process is meditative at its core. “My mentor Doze Green always taught me to breathe and allow breath and blade to guide me as opposed to me guiding the blade.” Ian’s hand-cut method explores ideas of indigeneity, modern progress, biodiversity and the foundation of one’s own history.
As a mid-career artist, Kuali’i’s art practice has evolved into a reflection of his personal journey, a dichotomy between urban grit and ancestral spirit, chaotic energy and refined control, ultimately unifying the delicate and the rough in symbiotic representation.
In every portrait, suspended freehand cut-paper piece or installation, there’s always a story and intent — usually veiled with what is referred to in Hawaiian culture as “Kauna” - hidden layers of meanings that speak directly to the “mo`olelo” (history/story). These hidden layers are represented through syntax and motif designs, composed from his ancestral ties to Hawai`i and the Southwest as well as mythological representations of the human condition: good and evil, life and death, occult symbolism, mysticism, global politics and themes of urban and environmental decay.