Review

Fatu Feu’u –The Village

What a gloriously sunny weekend we are having.  Summer is almost here!  I recently dropped into the first gallery I wrote about nearly two years ago when I started this blog, and I know I say it often but time really does fly by 🙂  As the art world is forever on the go, the Warwick Henderson Gallery has hopped over a neighbourhood and relocated to Newmarket.

Currently on display are paintings by the well-known and prominent contemporary artist, Fatu Feu’u.  This exhibition is called The Village, and each painting draws thematically on this, with titles such as Kumara Patch (2015) and Le Lagoon (2015).  Feu’u regularly journeys back to his village of Poutasi, Samoa, and he is regarded as a leader and elder in society.  These works emphasise the importance of family, community and culture, particularly in the wake of the 2009 tsunami.

Even with the knowledge that these were new works by Feu’u, I still found his paintings surprising and unexpected.  They were far more abstract than I anticipated; the motifs I most associate with Feu’u’s oeuvre, such as the frangipani and tribal mask, have been replaced with sketchy, energetic images drawn from ancient Lapita pottery and other prehistoric Pacific sources.

Incredibly gestural and intensely coloured with an earthy palette, the focus appears to be on mark making – the art of suggesting forms with a myriad of strokes and splashes from a paintbrush.  Somewhat resembling cave drawings as well as the paper cut out works by Henri Matisse, these paintings exhibit a sense of joie de vivre and togetherness, which is particularly demonstrated by the bopping figures in Lolita Come Play (2015) and Lolita Come Dance (2015).  The loose, almost instinctive brushwork adds to this impression of movement, as if they are abuzz with activity.

With the repetition of patterns throughout The Village, this series can be read in its entirety.  Each painting is like a cornerstone of a village, individually accentuating their significance to the community and culture as a whole.  That is at the heart of Feu’u’s paintings, and though some viewers may not find these as immediately iconic as his earlier works, the message is still essential and needing to be articulated.  Continuously evolving, I am excited to see where this direction will lead Fatu Feu’u next.

Fatu Feu’u –The Village is on until Sunday 11th October 2015 at Warwick Henderson Gallery, Newmarket.

For further info on the exhibition, please see the website:

http://www.warwickhenderson.co.nz/

And a great resource is Cultural Icons, where you can hear Fatu Feu’u discuss his life and work in episode #74:

http://culturalicons.co.nz/episode/fatu-feuu

Until next time!

M.

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