Fine art from new Pacific artists in Auckland


Papua New Guinea Law School dropout Leonard Tebegetu started his career designing a graffiti poster for a friend. <!--more-->Learning about art worldwide through the internet, he discovered a New York artist Justin Bua who melds ‘urban rhythms, graffiti and classical art training’ that Tebegetu adapted to his own ‘distorted realism’.

Walking is a common mode of transport for people from PNG so Tebegetu took to the streets of Auckland to discover the first western city he’s been to in his 32 years. His impressions are captured in oil paintings of Auckland’s street buskers including one of Mayor Len Brown performing at a Festival earlier this year. Alongside these whimsical but impressive caricature pieces is a powerful body of work based on rituals related to spirits and ancestors of the New Ireland Province of Papua New Guinea where Tebegetu grew up.

Following the ritual preparation process of the villagers of New Ireland, Tebegetu got into a meditative state before painting in his Auckland studio. Through abstinence from food, water and sex, his compositions came to him through meditation. The result is powerful and haunting works ranging from the ‘mud men’ of ‘The Optimist’ and ‘The Pessimist’ to huge ‘The Advance’ of a woman in full dance costume. Papua New Guinea is a complex country. These works in the exhibition ‘Ritual Spirit Tradition’ provide an amazing opportunity to find out about this resource rich country.

Leonard Tebegetu is in Auckland with his wife who in completing a PHD at the University of Auckland’s medical School and daughter who is at Parnell Primary School. They return to PNG early next year.

From across the Pacific, Tongan born and New Zealand educated Sam Afu’s work is equally challenging to the Pacific community and arts followers. Afu’s work explores forbidden and controversial boundaries of works on Tapa in that he works on top of finished Tapa. This can cause conflict with Pacific people who believe it should not be worked on in this way. With pen and paint he adds his own artistic flair showcasing not only his work, but equally important to him, the work of the earlier artist. Traditional Tongan designs and contemporary patterns blend the past and the present.

Both artists present at the exhibition at Reef Gallery 69 Beach Rd Downtown Auckland from Friday 22 to Sunday 24 November from 11am to 5pm. Artist Talk: Tebegetu and Afu will discuss their work on Saturday at 3pm. For further information call Marilyn Kohlhase 027 285 4350 or email <a href=""></a>