For background on the artist and works, see below.
About the ArtistFatu Feu’u – Background In speaking about his art practice, Feu’u asserts an intention to mediate an understanding of Samoan culture and history. What is equally apparent is that Samoan culture is the filter through which Feu’u interprets all that is around him. From national issues of race relations in New Zealand, and international conservation concerns, to very personal themes of a child’s struggles and personal estrangements, all are worked through a very Samoan world view. – Art New Zealand, 2004 Fatu Feu’u explores motifs of Pacific and particularly his Samoan culture but with a strong modernist interpretation, in paintings, limited editions and dramatic sculptures. His love of Picasso and the early 20th century modernists is also evident, but he has established a distinctive style which sees him recognised as one of the leading New Zealand Pacific artists. Fatu Feu’u was born in Samoa in 1946 and moved to New Zealand at the age of 20, working in textile design before becoming a full-time artist in his early 40s – encouraged by his friends and mentors Pat Hanly, Tony Fomison and Philip Clairmont, all major artists of the 20th Century. He now works between New Zealand and Samoa, and is known for work that blends traditional imagery with Western influences. He has won major art awards including the James Wallace (1995) and the Pacific Islands Artists Award (1996). His work is held in major collections including New Caledonia, Australia, New York and Germany, and he has undertaken significant commissions for works throughout the Pacific. He was awarded the Order of New Zealand Merit in 2001 for services to the arts. His work draws inspiration from ancient designs and patterns – from tapa cloth, lapita pottery, and tattoo – which were informed by cultural values of balance, symmetry, and reciprocity. However, he adds his own personal meanings and metaphors. Over the past decade, Fatu Feu’u has developed a series of works based on the Samoan tradition of ‘ifoga’ or reconciliation/rebuilding after a terrible event or action. The central letter ‘I’ as a motif captures this, with different colours coming together, meeting half way. This can be a meeting between families, tribes, villages or even nations, often to reconcile after someone has wronged another person or party. More recently, he expressed rebuilding physically and spiritually after the 2009 tsunami which struck Samoa and particularly the Poutasi area where Feu’u holds chiefly status; he later created a series based on the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes which affected many of his friends and fellow artists.
A fierce belief in the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary has inspired one of the largest paintings in recent years from leading Pacific-NZ artist Fatu Feu’u, anchoring a solo exhibition opening at The Diversion Gallery in Marlborough this month. The scale of Ola, stretching nearly three metres across, was a conscious decision, says Feu’u, to express the magnitude of the issue.
The largest work the gallery has shown in 17 years, it is an emphatic statement about the proposed ocean sanctuary around the Kermadec Islands, stretching north of New Zealand, and what it means to Feu’u both in personal terms and as a Pacific-NZ leader. Despite current controversy about the Sanctuary, Feu’u remains committed to championing it, because the concept stretches back to his Samoan ancestors, taking care of the oceans of the Pacific.
In the series entitled ‘Sekia‘ (meaning: high five, or awesome), unique handpainted woodcuts carry a powerful central motif of tapu areas ‘protected’ by squares with a cross through them, with suggestions of sails and traditional motifs in the background. The sails are sometimes faintly defined, implying spiritual guardians of the ocean resources. Later works became bigger and more vivid, reflecting the intensity of the artist’s passion for the sanctuary – ‘the oceans belong to the oceans… we must protect them.’ Tapui effectively means a protection over a place or object of major significance.
We also have in stock selected earlier limited edition prints by Fatu Feu’u, some the last of edition; and the large colour screenprint Mata Atua (face of the warrior god) with motifs of the kissing fish (symbolising creation of new life), the frangipani (woman) and ngongo (ancestor spirits or guardian angels). The colours red and yellow are signifiers of the place of the high chief and the orator respectively, and appear frequently in his paintings and sculptures.
More About the Artist
Feu’u was offered the MacMillan Brown residency at the University of Canterbury in 2011, the only artist ever to have the residency twice. He was asked in particular to encourage young contemporary artists of Pacific heritage to express their identity, spirituality and culture – this later resulted in a duo show with then Masters of Fine Arts student Josh Bashford at The Diversion Gallery. At the same time, Feu’u created a body of work exhibited at the University, mostly responding to the rebuilding of mind and city after the earthquakes. The intensely coloured work ‘On the Line’ is one of the finest, despite its smaller scale.
We have in stock copies of a fabulous book, Fatu Feu’u on Life and Art, RRP $55, in which the artist responds in his own words to questions about his life, career, family, culture and artworks.
Please contact us to confirm current prices: most prices are posted at the time of exhibition, and may be revised as the artists' values increase.