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JH

Auckland’s Pasifika Survey

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Leilani Kake, Ariki, 2011, digital video, detail. Courtesy of the artist Leilani Kake, Ariki, 2011, digital video, detail. Courtesy of the artist Lonnie Hutchinson, Comb (Red), 2009, stainless steel, automotive paint. Courtesy of the artist. Angela Tiatia, Hibiscus Rosa Sinensis, 2010, digital video, detail, courtesy of the artist, Auckland Shigeyuki Kihara, Daughter of the High Chief, gelatin silver print, 2003, courtesy of the artist, Auckland Shigeyuki Kihara, The High Chief and His Subjects, gelatin silver print, 2003, courtesy of the artist, Auckland Foufili Halagigie, Lili fakamanaia, 2012, raffia and coconut midribs, courtesy of the artist, Auckland Lakiloko Keakea, Fafetu, 2012, synthetic ribbon, cloth ribbon, wool, plastic. Courtesy of the artist, Auckland Greg Semu, Self-portrait with front of pe'a, Sentinel road, Herne bay, 2012, pigment inks on hahnemuhle Photo rag, Auckland art Gallery, Toi o Tamaki, purchased 2012. Graham Fletcher, Elephant, 2008-9, acrylic and enamel on wood, courtesy of the artist Graham Fletcher, Untitled (Lounge Room Tribalism), 2010, oil on canvas, The University of Auckland Collection Edith Amituanai, Hendo, 2011, pigment inkjet print. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, purchased 2012. Siliga Setoga, Black Boards, 2010, blackboard, chalk. Courtesy of the artist, Auckland Jeremy Leatinu'u, Tight Rope, 2011, video, courtesy of the artist , Auckland Jeremy Leatinu'u, Public Observations II, 2010, video, courtesy of the artist , Auckland Janet Lilo, Beneath the radar, 2012, digital videos, three synchronised channels. Courtesy of the artist, Auckland

Thematically complex, Home AKL mixes the topic of place as local environs with various sub-themes like the power of naming, androgyny, migration, stages of age, garments, and reoccurring symbolically loaded materials like hibiscus flowers, water, long hair, or lashed and knotted leaves. It is a richly complex churning concoction, a densely packed but still subtle arrangement of juxtapositions.

Auckland

 

Group exhibition
Home AKL

Curated by Ron Brownson, Julia Waite, Kolokesa Māhina-Tuai, Ema Tavola, and Niona Tonga. Mentoring patrons Caroline Vercoe and Albert Refiti

 

7 July - 22 October 2012

Up on the first floor in the galleries where From Degas to Dali used to be, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamati is now presenting the first ever major survey devoted solely to Aotearoa’s Pacific art, significant treasures from three generations of artists living in Auckland who have genealogical links to the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu. With about 25 artists and nearly 80 works (from the Collection and many commissioned) in a wide range of media, Home AKL is a wide ranging historical survey that encompasses contemporary practices too: videos alongside painting and sculpture.

It is a very considered hang, not overloaded, with clever symmetry at times, and clear, informative wall labels, yet initially I thought this show might be too wide in its scope: unwieldy and cumbersome because of so many curatorial voices involved; trying to please everybody and in fact pleasing no-one; that it would be stuffy and timid compared to say the more current but related student This Must be The Place show down the road at St. Paul St - put together by Jeremy Leatinu’u.

In fact it is very different, and in a good way. Firstly it is sensual, colourful and celebratory (the AUT show mostly isn’t, being more sociological and academic; more historical, about social relations and economic frustration - a bit dry - but with some remarkable highlights like the three interviews by Louisa Afoa). Home AKL is less eclectic, not being derivative - as student shows like the St. Paul St one tend to be.

Thematically complex, Home AKL mixes the topic of place as local environs with various sub-themes like the power of naming, androgyny, migration, stages of age, garments, and reoccurring symbolically loaded materials like hibiscus flowers, water, long hair, or lashed and knotted leaves. It is a richly complex churning concoction, a densely packed but still subtle arrangement of juxtapositions.

Thus the strength of this exhibition is in its synthesis of seemingly scattered components - radiating threads that effortlessly connect. Lielani Kake‘s contribution is a video of her longhaired, nine year old son swirling around in a pool of dark water. Filmed from above this is obviously a key image - a restless boy daydreaming - perhaps anxious about the future. When he reaches ten his hair will be cut. The image links to the ocean (Jim Vivieaere, Ioane Ioane, Joana Monolagi, Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi, Paul Tangata, John Pule, Teuane Tibbo), hair (Louisa Humphry, Kaetaeta Watson, Lonnie Hutchinson), androgyny (Shigeyuki Kihara, Tanu Gago), masculinity (Ani O’Neill, Angela Tiatia, Greg Semu, Graham Fletcher, Tanu Gago), and youth (Edith Amituanai, Janet Lilo, Jeremy Leatinu’u and Siliga Setoga)

For my own preferences - thinking in terms of specific media - the videos (Kihara, Leatinu’u, Kake, Lilo, Vivieaere and Tiatia), photography (Semu, Kihara, Gago, Amituanai) and sculpture (Fletcher, Hutchinson, Setoga, Tohi, O’Neill, Hastings-McFall and Ioane) hold up much better than the painting (Pule, Tibbo, Tangata, Fletcher and Leleisi’uao) unless you bend the categories a little and include the vibrantly colourful, circular and intricate weavings (Keakea, Halagigie, Humphry and Watson) as an extension of the latter.

Surprisingly, some well known Pasifika talent like Fatu Feu’u, Michel Tuffery and Lily Laita are conspicuously absent from this show. The selection is quite decisive that way, and other younger artists ignored like Schaeffer Lemalu could have made the painting component more contemporary. However as it is, the exhibition is a definite success. It is varied yet cohesive, sensual but thoughtful, though formal - packed with narrative, and although I am appalled that Auckland Art Gallery is charging an admission fee for visitors to see local culture, you could spend a lot of time here. There is a lot to look at with plenty of conceptual layering to consider. It is effortlessly engrossing.

John Hurrell

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