Niu Lemalu

The Runner (2023)

Detail, Edward (2023)

Acrylic on canvas, framed

Niu Lemalu (b. 1988) is a painter based in Papatoetoe, South Auckland. He held his first solo exhibition at Fresh Gallery Ōtara in 2010 after a short stint at art school. Consisting of 22 painted portraits, this first solo project grounded his practice in portraiture as a medium to explore identity, viral notoriety and the absurd. For the past decade, Lemalu has exhibited sporadically but honed his painting practice in the informal Pacific art economy of commissioned portraits and banners. Inspired by painters from the Bay Area Figurative Movement and the work of Francis Bacon, Lemalu has a love/hate relationship with the act of painting seeing it as both a futile practice, a problem, and an exercise in attention and intimate understanding. Harvesting imagery and inspiration constantly from bizarre corners of the Internet and popular sub-cultures, Lemalu fixates on subjects and situations that reveal, through the painting process, a way of understanding his own unconscious mind.

In 2023, Lemalu will present his second solo exhibition for Vunilagi Vou.


2023 – Vunilagi Vou, South Auckland

2010 – Alias, Fresh Gallery Ōtara, South Auckland


2021 – Picture Me Rollin’ – Portraiture in the Southside curated by Ema Tavola, Vunilagi Vou, South Auckland

2019 – WWJD:2 curated by Ema Tavola, Vunilagi Vou, South Auckland

2015 – That’s not Pacific Art curated by Ema Tavola, Williams Barber & Tattoo, Auckland

2010 – Fresh10 curated by Ema Tavola, Fresh Gallery Ōtara, South Auckland