Auckland Art Gallery has just opened an exhibition that celebrates the artist Wi Taepa.

The Te Ātiawa man is an accomplished carver but it's his clay artwork that sets him apart.

He says it's a medium he has a natural affinity with.

“When I work with clay, it's the gap between that finger and that thumb that tells me how thick I'm going. And you've got to have these things so that I don't have to see but I can imagine.”

With using only just his hands and modern techniques, over the last 30 years, Taepa has created these treasures which he says all have an individual story.

“A lot of my work has a roundish hole in the middle for Te Kore (The Void), then you come out to Te Pō (The Darkness) and then to the Te Ao Mārama (The Light).”

The 72-year-old served in the Vietnam War between 1970 - 1972 but says his passion for clay has always been with him since the age of five.

He also says genealogy is the most important thing and the path forward.

“One of the most important things is that we cannot afford to lose that focus on whakapapa (genealogy) so that our kids can draw and later on as they grow up they go deeper into whakapapa and they listen to stories.”

The Retrospective Exhibition at the Auckland Art Gallery will run until September.