August 3 - 26, 2017
John Pule’s new show OHI comes direct from Niue in more ways than one. Ohi is a Niuean word that describes notions of kinship, of bloodlines between people. And the six paintings in this show all have titles that refer to this space of human connection across both time and place. Like the text works also in the exhibition, all have been painted home in Kavaka, part of Liku in the less manicured east of Niue, John’s home.
The paintings then, reflect ties to family and place, but they also capture a luxuriousness that is wondrously and at times almost menacingly present. Take Levekiaga – a word for the careful and enduring stewardship of others – but what a painting! Various green enamels have been tipped and poured up and down the canvas and left to slowly dry, pucker and wrinkle in the heat. Then repeated patterns of honeycomb, leaf and pod shapes (some echoed by outline, others not) fill the canvas with measured abandon. The painting is free yet controlled, and wonderfully direct. There is something of Pat Hanly perhaps, in the sweep of form, the pouring of paint, and all the quirky detail. These tropical monochromes (in predominantly green or blue) exude the gravitas of slow moving lava whilst also capturing the lush rustling forms of island vegetation, or the extravagant seaweeds that sway above the seafloor.
The painted poems in the back gallery are by comparison lean, but still elegant. Here John’s tool of choice is a calligraphic pen with nib five millimeters in width. His ink medium is a dark cobalt blue. The poems are short – the title page tala NOA (poems about anything) is testament to their range. Pule acknowledges again his places of origin in Niue, the Gods who swam to find it, and his yearning for love in lines tinged with sadness and regret. But in the end, in the last two (page) works of thirteen, he returns to “that place that fills the land with moisture and water / that changes the coast in a dream / that place the ancients call mother of mothers the Ocean”. This is the blue in much of Pule’s work, the mother node if you like. It is the deep embrace of the Pacific.
Fonua Galo (Paea)
in the back gallery...
List of works
OHI enamel, ink & polyeurethane on canvas 1500 x 1500mm $38,000
All works are from 2017, painted in Niue