In the last solo exhibition of this year’s ‘Season of Solos’, Ōtara-based artist Genevieve Pini presents a body of new work that has been on a slow-boil for two decades.
Muscle Memory is the outcome of Vunilagi Vou’s BoostedxMoana crowdfunding effort from late 2022. The project saw two South Auckland artists – Niu Lemalu and Genevieve Pini – develop solo exhibition exhibitions throughout 2023, and show for the first time at the Aotearoa Art Fair.
Genevieve Pini’s visual arts practice draws on training in photography, jewellery, print and textiles. Whilst studying at Manukau School of Visual Arts in Ōtara, Pini received her malu (customary Sāmoan female tattoo), an experience and visual vocabulary that has had an enduring impact on her life and work. Blood, bloodlines and genealogical connection have carried through much of her making, often employing the colour red and in some works, the actual material used to wipe blood and ink from her tattoos.
Interested in meditative processes, adornment and making as a mode of cultural transmission, Pini has exhibited in group exhibitions since 2004, often reflecting on the idea of protection, strength and the everyday ways that Sāmoa is present in people, ritual, time and space.
Muscle Memory is Pini’s first solo exhibition, a significant and daunting project. The process of development has involved lengthy talanoa about what experiences in our lives form memory, and how those memories are held in our bodies, actions and behaviours. The title also speaks to Pini’s active dedication to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as a wellbeing practice that conditions her body and mind.
Vunilagi Vou is proud to present Muscle Memory to close out the 2023 programme.
Please join us for the Muscle Memory exhibition opening from 6-9pm on Wednesday 25 October 2023.
There is something very satisfying about being at the halfway mark of our four week crowdfunding campaign and sitting on 50% of our target of $10k…
Satisfying, and filled with gratitude, but slightly daunted about the prospect of raising the remaining $5k in 14 days. Can we do it? Can we do it with your help??
As has been shared throughout this campaign, this project is not filled with ‘knowns’. The outcome of Genevieve Pini and Niu Lemalu’s solo exhibitions is yet to be developed; this fund will enable them the time and space, support and materials to get to that point.
Genevieve and Niu are both relatively unknown in the wider awareness of Moana Pacific artists; in both cases, most of the creative work has happened in South Auckland, within grassroots settings, or within exhibitions that I’ve curated. Genevieve is a multiple award-winner from what was our annual design competition, Villa Maria Cult Couture and was profiled on Fresh TV here, and I featured three of Niu’s paintings in a pop-up exhibition series I made in 2015 called the PIMPI Winter Series; his interview was the most popular page on the website offering excellent insights to the mind of this painter, check it out here. In fact, both Genevieve and Niu made work for the PIMPI Winter Series in 2015, which I discussed on Radio New Zealand here.
I’ve had faith and been excited by both Genevieve and Niu’s art practices for almost 20 years. Niu made his first solo show at Fresh Gallery Ōtara when he was only 21 years old; Genevieve and I first met at Manukau School of Visual Arts in 2002 aged 19. It is this depth of familiarity, of knowing, that gives me total faith that this investment will enable them both to bring exciting, post-pandemic, deeply marinated ideas to the table… and I can’t wait to see what is produced!
I’ve asked some peers to help endorse this project’s kaupapa, and Ōtara-based artist and educator Leilani Kake offered a moving message about the importance of making solo shows here, and celebrated curator Nigel Borell MNZM, offered an insight about my curatorial practice and the act of making shows in South Auckland here. This week across social media, I published another testimonial by another award-winning peer, Tanu Gago MNZM – check it out below. I’m so grateful to this community of practice that surrounds Vunilagi Vou, and every project we produce and artist we work with.
Tanu mentions one thing at the beginning of this video that is sometimes not easy to really articulate. The act of curating Tanu Gago’s first solo shows wasn’t just because I had total faith in him, his visual language and what he had to say (as I do with Niu and Genevieve), but that curating his work was an act of fortifying a time and space for him in the art world, and in the case of Tanu, a time and space that became a launchpad for a tremendous trajectory.
The intention when curating Moana Pacific artists into exhibitions, whether group or solo endeavours, is never about the pursuit of fame, sales or fortune, but always about enabling artists to see themselves in a wider art world that mostly doesn’t look or sound like us. As a curator, my role has always been to enable artists to feel their voices are valid and important. To be affirmed, and know that someone is listening and hyping you, to know that you don’t stand alone, and that imposter syndrome can always be countered when we move together.
In essence, this crowdfunding effort is about more than two solo exhibitions. The donations and support from our communities so far has already shown these two artists the belief people have in what they do and what they will do. It is that investment that I know will have the most powerful impact on them, today and into the future. That shift in feeling supported, valid and worthy of investment is what will create some really powerful work in 2023.
Hitting our $10k target will enable all this good stuff to happen with a bit more ease. In the case of both artists, applying for CNZ arts grant investment has never really felt like an option. The process itself is a barrier, the competition for funds is aggressive, and as Nigel Borell states in his video, making art is so often a 3rd, 4th even 5th priority for working folx.
As a curator who is interested in the power and potential of sometimes the quietest voices, and a curator who has seen artists grow and flourish in abundant, art history shifting ways, I hope the next two weeks can show us how much faith our communities can generate for not only these two excellent artists, but also Moana Pacific curating as a mode of service and of decolonisation.
Vunilagi Vou has the privilege of participating in the 2022 BoostedxMoana initiative delivered in partnership between Boosted – Aotearoa’s dedicated arts project crowdfunding platform backed by The Arts Foundation – and Creative New Zealand.
In 2020, 118 donors helped us raise over $12k to support exhibition delivery at Vunilagi Vou 2.0 and The Alexander Cafe. With the massive disruptions that the pandemic caused in 2021, that investment was a life-line and kept the cogs turning in and out of lockdown lulls. Those funds supported exhibitions by Vea and Emily Mafile’o, Antonio Filipo, David Garcia, Peatree and Jeremiah Tauamiti.
This year, working now from a beautiful new premises in East Tāmaki, South Auckland, and after a short hiatus in between spaces, it’s all go for 2023!
Our BoostedxMoana project is simply called Two Solos. It is a project to support, nurture and hold space for the development of two solo exhibitions by two South Auckland-based artists – Genevieve Pini and Niu Lemalu.
Whilst Genevieve has been practicing for almost two decades, and Niu for one, neither artist has ever applied for Creative New Zealand funding; their practices have been entirely self-funded. Both have mainly shown in South Auckland, and both work full-time in non-creative sector jobs.
Making a solo exhibition takes commitment, resource, encouragement and confidence. It takes people, perhaps a curator or gallerist, to see untapped potential in an artist, and in an ideal situation, support them to manifest an idea, refining it, shaping it and presenting it to an audience.
This crowdfunding effort centres the process of supported artistic development, and the nuanced space that is held between Moana Pacific artists, and a Moana Pacific curator, in a Moana Pacific gallery. Both Genevieve and Niu will develop their ideas with support, talanoa and guidance with the community of practice that surrounds Vunilagi Vou.
The time and space this Two Solos project funding will enable will allow both artists to see their work within a wider creative ecology. Their solo shows will be significant markers in their broader creative practices, that have the potential to move in new and exciting directions when supported in ways that are culturally, politically and socially informed.
We are looking to raise NZ$10,000 to support the development, material costs, gallery overheads and artist fees to produce these two solo exhibitions in 2023 and Creative New Zealand is committed to match funding up to $3,000.
Without operational funding in 2023, Vunilagi Vou’s curatorial programme will be made up of individually funded projects like this Two Solos project. There is a certain freedom to this in that the gallery can shapeshift to meet different needs. If funds are secured to support Niu and Genevieve’s solo shows, Vunilagi Vou could transform short-term into a working studio to meet the needs of much-needed space required to make and experiment, plan and think.
I’ve shared with Genevieve and Niu that this Two Solos project will be the fourth crowdfunding campaign I’ve led and the feeling of being backed by your community is like nothing else. Crowdfunding is hard work, and can be challenging for many reasons; you have to believe that your work is worth investment, and that’s why I’m here, holding space for these two artists, who have never seen applying for arts funding as an option. They are 100% worth the investment and I’ve seen that time and time again in the work they have produced for shows I’ve made over the years.
I am so excited to see them both keen and committed to making solo exhibitions in 2023. Your investment will have a powerful and transformative impact on two excellent artists with untapped potential – please do consider donating!
Our Two Solos crowdfunding campaign runs until Thursday 17 November 2022 – please help us spread the word, amplify the quiet excellence of these two artists and help Vunilagi Vou hold space for two awesome new shows in 2023!