Sofia's evocative floral presence has a parallel in John's new, red "cloud" paintings. Quite literally islands of red within a white field of gessoed canvas, the red ink of their making has (been) dribbled down the canvas - an extravagant escape that has been recolonised by the hand of the painter as the ground for some luxuriant tropical creeper with big, gorgeous flowers! Red then, becomes soil - a nursery of lush growth - within volcanic (basaltic red) or coral island ground.
But red too, becomes scabby, or in Stay Close Forever, the slowly healing wounds of grief. Little figures move themselves and their goods incessantly upwards between these islands of sadness. If the quintessential Polynesian condition is migration, then transporting self, the household, and ones plants of taro and banana, is the other primary subject of these paintings.
Finally, a word about Taulani (many people/hands helping). Its stripes are strata-like - like layers of soil. So what I think we have here is a physical geography, that becomes a personal geology, a whakapapa or social history even. We read between lines. We travel from Liku to Otara to Grey Lynn; we transplant from basalt to light Pukekohe loam; moving gently, and repeatedly from red to brown.
John Pule's painting was inspired by the compositions of hiapo, or Nuiean tapa, through the 1990's. As tapa's grid was increasingly loosened in terms of organization, the stripe paintings emerged (notably amongst the commissioned contemporary works for The Parihaka Show, 2001); and now these red paintings place John assertively and also idiosyncratically, in the hybrid world of contemporary New Zealand art, "born in paradise", born in the Pacific.
Na comprises four big, loose canvases from John Pule; and a row of thimbles pinned as a horizon line around the gallery walls by Sofia Tekela-Smith. Within each thimble is a plant, bearing the gift of life - a little viola or alyssum - that promises to flower through the duration of the show! For the gallerist, busy each day with his eyedropper, it brought new meaning to the notion of tending art, of nurturing practise over time Š for itÕs the middle of winter here!
But seriously, what a marvellous way for Sofia, known for her contemporary Polynesian jewellery - work for the neck or for the bosom - to claim a significant gallery presence alongside her mateÕs rumbustuous canvases.
John's paintings are oil, ink and pencil on canvas, from 2003.