Posts tagged ‘Niutuiatua Lemalu’

It’s the last few days of the PIMPI Winter Series, an experimental series of pop-up exhibitions produced in partnership with Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio on Auckland’s Mt Eden Road. The last day of the current show is THIS Saturday 12 September there are six works left for sale, check them out…

Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik | Noodles
420 x 594mm, Colour Accent Print on 200gsm Fuji Film Satin Finish paper (Edition of 2)

$450 [Framed]
Waiora Palalagi

… for the paper (2015)
610 x 910mm, oil on canvas
Niutuiatua Lemalu

stella fella’ | is there dirt beneath the dirt?
Both 550 x 760mm, oil on canvas
Niutuiatua Lemalu

MALE – Maori or Polynesian (2015)
915 x 760 x 25mm, lenticular print (Edition of 1)
Leilani Kake

** All prices in New Zealand dollars, payment via cash, bank deposit or PayPal only.
** Artwork available for collection 4pm, Saturday 12 September.

Artwork enquiries

I love painting, and I love collecting paintings. Niutuiatua Lemalu’s works in my personal collection give me life everyday, and often scare visiting children, but I love them a lot. Know what I mean, jellybean? is the final show in the inaugural PIMPI Winter Series and the exhibition’s themes inspired the South Auckland-based painter to make three brand new oil paintings…

Niu! It has been a while! You had a solo painting exhibition at Fresh Gallery Otara almost exactly five years ago – what have you been up to?

Yeah it’s scary to think that exactly five years ago Alias was opening, must be a sign. I’ve been mostly working. I seriously considered making a go at having another show but decided to put those on hold, primarily for economic reasons. The struggle is real.

Your Alias (2010) body of work investigated masking and the layers that make up identity, the acts of revealing, hiding, being exposed. The premise of Know what I mean, jellybean? for the PIMPI Winter Series, made me think of you straight away; I’m so happy that you’ve been inspired to make three beautiful new paintings. Tell me about them!

Yes and thanks Ema for this opportunity, I was very excited when you approached me about the show particularly because I felt like “Know what I mean jellybean?” struck a personal chord. I mean, that phrase for one has probably popped up in a LOT of conversations so to me it offered a possibility of discourse, a starting and departure point; about gangs, fitting in, not quite fitting in, nostalgia, popular culture, success, failure, youth, marginalisation, politics, the ghetto, religion, family etc… Talking about my recent works is kind of difficult mainly because my first instinct is to rely on memory to describe the experience of making these works and also because painting has a way of flipping the script on you. Looking at them as they are now there’s somewhat of a departure from the original thoughts I had when I initially found out about the exhibition.

Initially I’d find some images that were direct and in your face. But there’s a kind of absurdity that goes hand in hand with trying to make painting go along with an idea. I mean the material is so crass and dumb and then it always becomes like a physical thing to make a painting submit to an idea – it refuses to lie down or be invisible and in the end no matter how fast your ideas are or even if you’re painting from an image and you don’t have to worry about something basic like, composition you still find yourself watching and waiting. So yeah, there’s some frustration in there, failure, a little bit of awkwardness and humour or not quite fitting in, a kind of longing to find the zeitgeist and not quite attaining it.

This exhibition is an attempt to visualise the interface and negotiation of difference in the spaces between cultures, class, gender. Your work is in excellent company alongside new and recent work by Leilani Kake, Waiora Palalagi and Pati Solomona Tyrell. I’ve worked with you in a traditional gallery context, deeply embedded South Auckland kaupapa; what did you think when I pitched the idea of being part of a Pacific art exhibition in a barber and tattoo studio in Mt Eden, central Auckland?

My first thought was “cool”, besides I don’t know of many people who wake up and think “hhhmmmm, I think I’ll go visit my local gallery today” and I’m an artist! Barber shops/tattoo studios on the other hand…… Seriously though, I like the idea that this could potentially be a lot more accessible to the public. I know that art galleries and museums are always heading this way too but I’ve always felt that they targeted a specific audience and the pre- requisites to enter a gallery would be a degree in art history or something! By the way this is not necessarily how it is everywhere, just a personal observation.

You’ve got mad skills, and I remember your family taking the opportunity at your artist talk at Fresh to call you out on the paintings they wanted you to give to them!! I loved that! I’m interested in the prolific practice of banner painting, key making and memorial t-shirt design; a creative economy which happens every day in the Pacific community. To me, this is contemporary Pacific art in practice; art that speaks to Pacific people, values lived experience, love, family, history. I know you’ve done your fair share of banners; what’s your views on banners, on painting for exhibitions, and the difference in audience and value, meaning and purpose?

I know my family’s pretty hardcore when it comes to supporting anyone in the family. Speaking of family my mum and dad would volunteer me to do banners towards the end of high school for church and other family members. I’d been painting since 5th form so I guess they had to find out whether I was any good or not (LOL). Banners feel like what I would imagine doing a commissioned piece would be like, only with probably a lot less creative freedom, give or take. Doing banners can be physically exhausting because of the sheer size of some and also because you’re having to negotiate around time constraints, skill limitations, whether or not the people you’re doing it for have a clear idea of what they want. Most times it’s; here’s the theme, here’s the materials and away you go. On very rare occasions you get someone who is very specific, like my aunty; which is good because someone else is calling the shots and making the decisions so it’s easier. You instantly know whether it’s a success or not based on whether someone likes it, or not. Most times the target audience are just hella grateful. I don’t think there’s ever been a time I’ve received a bad comment or where my banners have been received poorly, even in instances where I am not too happy about the end product or where I felt that I could have done better but there’s a perceived priceless exchange, almost sentimental to whoever you’re doing it for.

Painting outside of this is a lot more anxious, no one really knows what’s good. I mean painting has so much baggage, it’s been pronounced dead and revived so many times, yet people are still finding stuff to do. Maybe I chose to paint because of this possibility of resistance.

Know what I mean, jellybean?
27 August – 12 September
Featuring Leilani Kake, Niutuiatua Lemalu, Waiora Palalagi, Pati Solomona Tyrell

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: /

Exhibition and Artwork Enquiries

Writing media releases is not a strength of mine. I’ve had the privilege of working with some excellent marketing heads in the past; they’ve taken my words and created digestible, broad appeal information that gives mainstream mana to projects which generally sit comfortably within the margins.

Producing a series of exhibitions in a non-conventional, central Auckland commercial space, with an agenda of selling art and engaging broad and diverse audiences, on a minimal budget, has forced me out of my comfort zone. These exhibitions couldn’t exist ‘comfortably within the margins’; they needed to be translated, positioned, re-valued… or did they?

As the PIMPI Winter Series has rolled out, the deeper purpose and complexity of what I set out to do has revealed itself to me day by day, online and off, in conversations and silent observations. In this space between commerce and creativity, the perceived margins and the centre, where skin is marked and hair is cut, the exhibitions are encountered largely unintentionally by wandering eyes, passers by, social media followers and waiting mates, spouses and children.

Partner in the PIMPI Winter Series, and owner of Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio, Stan Lolohea, has challenged and invigorated my thinking at every stage. Outside of the conventions of an art gallery, who are these shows for? And does increasing the net of general awareness create more genuine interest? Does an exhibition grow the scope, care and engagement between audiences, groups… does it facilitate understanding, conversation and debate across class, race, gender divides?


I’ve found producing these exhibitions so completely refreshing, a total love-project with no funding, but built on the back of a strong forgiving partnership (vinaka vakalevu Stan), and carried by my family, who have shared the load (malo ‘aupito Taka, Si’i, Lini, Tu’i). I had found myself working from funding round to funding round, writing late night proposals, planning, pitching, failing… I needed to get back to the grassroots of what I love to do and flex my curatorial muscle.

DIY curating is a full To Do list most days, but the hosting, promo, multiple trips to Warehouse Stationary, the framers, finding excellent deals on good wine, getting my earth-thrills from using corn-based bioplastic cups… I’ve loved it all! But mostly, it has been a privilege to gently hustle these 12 talented and clever artists, facilitating sales for many of them, instigating new work and fresh thinking.

I’m grateful for the partnerships, support and online engagement that has pushed out the potential of these shows. To those who have bought work – thank you, and to those who have given their time and skills: Lana Lopesi, Ralph Brown, Sean Atavenitia for South Auckland Photography, Sangeeta Singh, Leilani Kake – I’m deeply grateful. Thanks also to the residents of Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio, Duss, Damian and Willy – I’ve been totally inspired watching you work!

The Private Views / Opening receptions for the PIMPI Winter Series have been too cool. Eclectic, diverse audiences… family, friends, colleagues, locals, South Aucklanders too! To those who travel from near and far to support these artists – thank you so much! It means a lot. Check out this badass video by South Auckland Photography:


Here’s an interview Stan and I did with Radio New Zealand reporter, Justin Gregory, aired on Friday 7 August:


And there’s still ONE MORE SHOW to go!

Please join us from 6pm on Thursday 27 August at Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio, 159 Mt Eden Road, central Auckland to mark the opening of Know what I mean, jellybean? featuring new and recent work by Leilani Kake, Niutuiatua Lemalu, Waiora Palalagi and Pati Solomona Tyrell – all work is for sale!

Click-Click-Follow on Instagram and Facebook for real time happenings!

I’ve been dreaming about establishing another gallery in South Auckland. I love curating, I love selling art and I love collaborating with artists to make good shows that contribute to broadening awareness and understanding of Pacific ways of seeing and being in Auckland, New Zealand.

Whilst I’m hopeful my one-day gallery is in the near future, in the meantime I’ve collaborated with Tongan tattoo artist, Stan Lolohea to develop the PIMPI Winter Series: a series of three pop-up exhibitions at his Mt Eden barber and tattoo studio. We’re working with 12 artists over eight weeks facilitating the presentation of around 25 individual pieces of work, most of which has never been exhibited before, and all work is for sale!

These artists excite me! From Canberra-based Sione Monu, the Brown-Instagram-famous selfie savant, Faafeu Kapeneta, photographing the small but visible Tongan community in rural Marlborough, to visual arts students Qingze Nan, Daisy Tavilione and Pati Solomona Tyrell, each making experimental, bold work at MIT Faculty of Creative Arts in the heart of Otara, South Auckland.

I feel super privileged that for some of these artists, this is their first exhibition. Some are Pacific art regulars, whilst others have been fairly quiet on the exhibition scene. The PIMPI Winter Series has been a call to action, inspiring new work and a different context for engaging with Pacific art and ideas.

U Can’t Touch This (16 July – 1 August) features Talafungani Finau, Sione Monu, Siliga David Setoga and Daisy Tavilione. In the first of the series, this site specific exhibition acknowledges the head, the hair and the selfie. In Fiji, like many parts of Oceania, the head is the most sacred part of the body; in the words of Stanley Kirk Burrell, U Can’t Touch This. Situated in and around the barber shop floor, four Pacific artists have created new work about the head (literally), and the most important and sacred parts of life. In references to family portraiture and the celebratory lei (garland), there are acknowledgements of nature and culture, life and death, loved ones and idols.

That’s not Pacific Art (6 – 22 August) features Faafeu Kapeneta, ‘Ana Lakusa, Qingze Nan and Genevieve Pini. Inspired by conversations around definitions, problematic terminology, authorship and belonging, this exhibition confronts popular expectations of what Pacific art is / should be. Some work deviates from direct references to identity and community, people and places, others present perplexing juxtapositions of tradition, human and geographical landscapes.

Know what I mean, jellybean? (27 August – 12 September) features Leilani Kake, Niutuiatua Lemalu, Waiora Palalagi and Pati Solomona Tyrell. In reference to a line from the movie Blood In, Blood Out, this exhibition touches on the idea of cultural chameleonism, and the everyday negotiation of difference across and between cultural and social environments, vernacular and humour, ways of being and seeing.

Meet the artists at the PIMPI Winter Series Private Views, pick up a copy of Stan Lolohea’s essay and get in quick – artwork is priced to sell!

Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio


Big Willie Legacy Barber & Tattoo Studio is located at 159 Mt Eden Road, Mt Eden, Auckland. It’s open Mondays from 9am-6pm, Tuesday-Saturday from 9am-7pm.

Appointments and enquiries: (09) 630 4380 /


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