Sione Monu is a Canberra-based visual artist whose first exhibition will be U Can’t Touch This, part of the PIMPI Winter Series at Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio. We connected on Instagram, then via email and later in person. I asked him a few questions about his work and ideas…

I came across your work via the Pacific Photobooks project – it looked like a really great opportunity to learn and network with some cool Pacific image makers. How did that experience influence your practice?

Pacific Photobooks was very major for me in networking and learning from Pacific image makers definitely. It was a series of workshops every Saturday in Sydney for Pacific Islander youth to learn from established artists of Pacific decent. We were taught how to use manual on our SLR cameras which I was surprised at how much we can manipulate how the picture comes out before even editing it on Photoshop! It was great. Also being surrounded by Poly artists and listening to them talk about their practice was very inspiring and opened my eyes to the possibilities for us young Poly artists.

Your Instagram is this beautiful archive of your work and experiences, and your selfie game is on point! Do you see digital self-portraiture as a screen-based practice? I’m wondering, do you think something is lost when these images get printed and presented as tangible things?

I love how you put it in your recent blog post where you describe my Instagram as a “gentle insight into Tongan experience in Australia’s capital city.” I’ve always been shy and introverted growing up so Instagram has been this incredible thing for me to express myself and connect with people I wouldn’t have otherwise. Definitely, digital self-portraiture as a screen-based practice seems a natural progression to me especially being part of this technological generation, the possibilities are endless. I do feel something is lost when images are printed and put on a wall, behind another wall, behind a glass door. Too many walls for my liking I think haha! Though I’m sure it’s not so black and white but I just love how accessible Instagram is. I’ve connected with so many people from so many different demographics! All this from a little “selfie” app! It’s really amazing.

I’m so glad that your work is having its first showing in Aotearoa at Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio for the PIMPI Winter Series! You came to Auckland recently and seemed to get a lot done! What were your impressions of the city?

Yes! I’m super excited also! My first ever exhibition! I was recently in Auckland for a great uncle’s funeral. After the funeral I contacted as many Pacific Islander artists based in Auckland that I follow on Instagram for meet ups. I had a good talk with you and Stan over a coffee and coconut ice cream which was fabulous. I got to meet many other artists based in Auckland who I admire very much. It’s been a roller-coaster ride of experiences even now I’m still trying to process it all! Auckland city was alright I guess but south Auckland really has stolen my heart. My morning runs up the local mountains was definitely one of my favourite things about my stay.  I’m actually looking to move over in the near future, and just find my own little space in this beautiful land. Thank the universe for my parents never changing my citizenship to Australian! So I’m still a kiwi y’all! Haha!

You seem to have a big Insta-fan-base with the Pacific arts community – I think there’s a general feeling that your work is fresh to death! I’m excited to see where your practice will take you, but I’m wondering, what’s your big picture, what would be your ideal art future?

My female cousins taught me early the fine art of Instagram/Facebook stalking. But I would spend my stalking sessions stalking Pacific arts people! Haha! And now I have many Pacific arts community followers thanks to my stalking skills, which is nice. What’s my big picture? Well I have keen interests in so many mediums so I’ll just keep sharing my designs, photographs, videos clips, fashion illustrations, with the world through Instagram until the universe says what’s next I guess. As for my art future, something that incorporates all my interests would be a long shot… but a girl can dream!

“King George Tupou was here #2”, one of three illustrations for sale in “U Can’t Touch This”

U Can’t Touch This
16 July – 1 August
Private View
6-8pm, Thursday 16 July
Featuring
Talafungani Finau, Sione Monu, Siliga David Setoga, Daisy Tavilione

Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio is located at 159 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland. Open Mondays from 9am-6pm, Tuesday-Saturday from 9am-7pm. Barber and tattoo appointments and enquiries: (09) 630 4380 / bigwillie.barber.tattoo.studio@gmail.com

Exhibition & Artwork Enquiries:

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