John Pule and Sofia Tekela-Smith's fourth joint project at Jonathan Smart Gallery is called "Ata" (or Soul), and runs until Saturday, August 4th.
Sofia Tekela-Smith presents pendants in pounamu and sterling silver, hung in grid formation commanding the Gallery's biggest wall. The pounamu is beautifully flecked in white, while the ellipses in silver are etched with text, a word in English alongside its equivalent in Rotuman. (Rotuma being the island of Sofia's birth.) Chosen are the laden descriptors from stories told by her grandfather. Or as she says: "My beloved Magfa (grandfather) used to tell me stories of his experiences when he was a young man traveling the Pacific. These words relate to some of the amazing stories he told me. As I was being prepared for the return from Rotuma to New Zealand, these stories became ever more flambouyant."
John Pule has made four new paintings for the occasion, each embodying a different poetry of blue. In Hopo Viki pools of blue enamel paint bleed with turpentine, their edges stressed and eviscerated. At these edges paint is sometimes wrinkled skin deep. At other times varnish is poured on, and delicate surfaces transparent and luminous like jellyfish are achieved. In Moheaga, white paint is run into matt blue, realizing crazed marbling effects like peacock feather, or lines that rest nematode-like in the belly.
What I'm suggesting then, is that John Pule's confidence with paint is growing; and that his painting is becoming more painterly. Earlier, such surfaces tended to be thinner and wiped for gesture and movement. (And these effects are here too, turpentine rubbed across blue oil stick conjuring many wondrous topaz-like blues.)
But it is in the thickness, the volume of these enamels that colour begins to bloom - alive now with turmoil, like the igneous basalts of his beloved Niue itself.
In other words, I think John's painting is beginning to offer a powerful adjunct to his drawing - that long standing ability of his with nibbed pen to describe the fragmented humanity of the Pacific. And this painterliness is enabling something to blossom between the riverlets of indian ink - extra presence now grows alongside the energy and variety of his hand-drawn line. His painting is becoming richer and more symphonic in scope - a visual poetry akin to the emotion and political power of his written words.
1. Hopo Viki
Both are paintings by John Pule, from 2007; in enamel, graphite, ink
and oil stick on canvas. They are 1520 x 2440mm.
3. I Go Today You Follow Tomorrow (Fano Au Aho Nei, Mui Mai A Koe Apogi)
4. Procession (not shown)
These two paintings by John Pule from 2007, are mixed media on canvas. They measure 1200 x 2010mm, and 1950 x 1705mm respectively.
Sofia Tekela-Smith presents a group of pendants made in 2007 - from sterling silver, pounamu, waxed thread, mother of pearl and 9c gold.