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Featuring Nigel Borell, Melissa Cole & Rudi Robinson, Denzal Tauelima, Faleata Ualesi and Teura Wichman

Curated by Ema Tavola

2 July – 3 August

Putiputi (meaning flower in Te Reo Māori) is a group exhibition featuring new and recent works that explore the anatomy, symbolism and allure of flowers as translated across cultural perspectives from Aoteaora, Cook Islands, Niue and Sāmoa.

The second show in Vunilagi Vou’s exhibition programme continues the Gallery’s agenda of weaving together established and emerging artists, and diverse perspectives from across Oceania and the Auckland region. The artists come from a range of backgrounds, balancing creative practices with professional pursuits both within and outside of the creative industries, commerce and the education sector.

Nigel Borell (Pirirākau, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui, Te Whakatōhea) is well-known for his curatorial work (he is currently the Curator Māori Art at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki), but started his practice as a painter much earlier. In this new suite of works, Nigel’s signature blend of delicate cutaways, lush brocade fabrics and bold painterly mark making honours the time and transformative energies of Matariki, the Māori new year.

Ōtāhuhu-based creative duo, Melissa Cole (Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Kahu) and Rudi Robinson (Ngāruahine, Ngāti Tu, Ngāti Makirangi, Ngāti Kohua, Ngāti Paoa) work collaboratively on a range of projects that blend Melissa’s love of crochet and textiles and Rudi’s broad skills in sculptural form and technical installation. For Putiputi, they have produced an homage to Mexican sugar skulls, inspired by their shared love of the work of Frida Kahlo. Mēhiko ki Aotearoa is positioned in the Vunilagi Vou window space, surrounded by chalk pen ‘doodles’ by Melissa Cole, a free-form expression of the kaupapa of joy which underpins all of the couple’s work.

Denzal Tauelima (FineoneHakupu – Niue / Ngāpuhi) utilises skills acquired through familial relationships and traditions practiced within his extended Niuean and cross-cultural family. Whilst colourful floral garlands worn on the head are commonly known in Aotearoa as a Cook Islands practice, Denzal has explored the ways adorning the head with plant-based decoration is practiced throughout Oceania. His four new works in Putiputi each express a different narrative related to the rich multicultural landscape he draws inspiration from, and each work is made from silk and synthetic floral materials sourced here in Ōtāhuhu.

Faleata Ualesi (Sāmoa) is a self-taught artist who works full-time as an English teacher at Tangaroa College in Ōtara, South Auckland. His large-scale canvas works centralise motifs commonly found in Sāmoan siapo (bark cloth) but transform the usually linear, two-dimensional design vocabulary into pulsing, monochromatic almost optical illusion-like statements. Utilising black permanent marker pen, these bold works almost vibrate off Vunilagi Vou’s signature yellow walls.

Teura Wichman (Rarotonga, Cook Islands) is a Māngere-based fine artist whose detailed floral embroidery works can be found at her family’s three retail stores (Little Bitz) in Māngere Town Centre and Ōtāhuhu mainstreet. The four cushion covers and two pillow case sets in Putiputi are reflections of the technical skill and creative labour that exists in our Pacific communities. Artists like Teura Wichman are generating vital cultural capital for their communities, and commercial opportunities for their families. They speak to the intercultural language of Oceanic identities in a ‘post-colonial’ era, where visual languages of colonial settlers have been adopted and adapted to create a new vocabulary of connection, belonging and nostalgia.

Putiputi is a group exhibition that honours our natural environment in materials and modes we have access to here in Aotearoa. It is an uncomplicated love letter to the wisdom and peace that flowers provide us, the lessons they have to teach us about life and death, and whakapapa. Putiputi is a gentle reminder of the balance indigenous communities have always practiced within our natural environments, and the ongoing need to observe respect and guardianship over the Earth.

Vunilagi Vou opening hours:

Tuesday – Thursday: 10am – 5pm
Friday: 10am – 6pm
Saturday: 11am – 4pm
Sunday / Monday: Closed