Banned art gets a second chance
Andy Leleisi'uao, Le Onoeva - Misunderstood Aitu
Until April 18
Art censorship is alive and well in Manukau City. A recently completed mural by Andy Leleisi'uao one of the country’s leading Pacific artists has been rejected by the local community.
He had undertaken the Mangere East Community Centre mural project with funding made available from the ASB Community Trust and the Manukau City Creative Community Scheme earlier this year.
The 25 metre mural was to replace one which he had painted 14 years ago but which had deteriorated because the original materials were not suitable and had not be protected against graffiti.
After discussions with the centre he produced the 25 metre painted mural on Marine ply for the site.
At the point where the work was almost completed the artist was advised that the community did not appreciate or understand the work and he was requested to produce a more acceptable work
A delegation of members of the community was invited to view the work which was set out in the centre and to pass comment on it. A majority voted to oppose its installation.
The artist is now required to repaint the old mural, his payments are withheld and he awaits the return of the rejected mural.
But the public has not been totally denied seeing the artists latest work as many of the images that he has used in the mural are can be seen in his current exhibition Le Onoeva - Misunderstood Aitu at Whitespace.
His work has always been confronting and controversial with a strong social concern to it providing a window to the realities of life for Pacific people and particularly Samoan living in New Zealand.
They suffer the problems of the migrant worker and the social dislocation which creates social problems for many.
But he also highlights the issues of family violence and the oppressive and destructive roles of the churches in Pacific communities.
At times his work was raw and obvious, a screaming at injustices that he saw. In these more recent works though the voice is more moderated and rather than a Pacific voice the works have a more universal theme of social and moral dysfunction and alienation.
The title of the exhibition refers to "aitu" which are ghosts or spirits and presents an ambivalent view of the misty worlds of the spiritual.
The impression one gains is that the invented gods and spirits of the Pacific and the Christian religion are figments of our imagination and the things that motivate and define us are held within us.
These Armageddon-like landscapes blaze with colour and energy and akin to a medieval dance of death where the common folk are worked up into levels of hysteria about the coming end of the world and a vengeful god
Most of the works feature a two faced figure bearing horns which could represent the dual nature of human beings. Inside this figure are various structures, sometimes a tree form but more often a series of platforms or shelves containing small contorted figures and emblematic shapes.
In some works such as Putasiti Heads ($3800) these figures are contained in a series of cells like display units or film frames.
Other areas of the paintings are peopled with winged figures, angels and demons, bringers of salvation and damnation.
These works draw loosely on a number of sources; there are Grecian vase ornaments, the medieval works of Bosch and Breughel, and the exoticism of Gustave Moreau.
In Matasio Heads ($6800) they connect stylistically with John Pule's layered narrative works.
Some works such as Gupusafa Heasds ($5400) with its cavorting figures seems to derive from the Dance of Death sequence in Ingmar Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal and there are also stylistic simalrities to the bullfight sketches of Pablo Picasso.
These are the visions of an apocalyptic nightmare are forced on a populations by naive and corrupting religious ministers who want to frighten people with primitive beliefs and attempt to deny the individual their own moral sense of right and wrong.