Samuel Tupou: SITE SEER

WHEN : 3rd - 25th November

On Friday 3 November 2017, Onespace is pleased to present an exciting body of new as well as recent works by contemporary Queensland artist, Samuel Tupou. SITE SEER is Tupou’s first Brisbane exhibition since 2012 and represents a culmination of the artist’s recent creative development.

Tupou was born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1976, and moved to the Northern Territory in 1982. He has previously been based in Cairns, and now lives and works in Brisbane. As well as practicing as a contemporary visual artist, Tupou also manages Poly Gone Cowboy in Norman Park, a dynamic creative business that works across screen-printing and t-shirt manufacturing.

SITE SEER continues Tupou’s experiments with colour, patterning and form. The exhibition will showcase colourful serigraphs that explore themes of cross-cultural identity, migration, culture clash, decoration and the value of contemporary images. Tupou particularly focuses on elements that unite the Pacific, such as recurring design motifs, traditional patterning and the convergence of cultures.

Instead of creating immediately consumable images, which is one of the tenets of contemporary visual culture (think of mediums such as Facebook and Instagram), Tupou adds an extra layer of interpretation to otherwise familiar objects. He asks us to ‘un-see’, to become unfamiliar with images we would otherwise find familiar. We see these images anew through Tupou’s practice of using shimmering kaleidoscopes of colour and perplexing bitmap grids.

By rendering ubiquitous subjects unintelligible, Tupou allows the viewer to have a more engaging relationship with the image. We do not just quickly brush over them as we scroll our newsfeeds, or glanceup at them on billboards as we drive. Tupou re-invests the image with visual value while critiquing the terms of consumption we internalise so effortlessly.

“Take the skull works for example. I was in K-Mart, a shop like that. They had this big wall of kids’ water-bottles with big skull image on it. I thought that was a lot of skulls, and I was thinking about what the meaning of that symbol is, and how the context is so different. How meaning can change for different symbols and different images, depending on the context. You can change the context and the same image will have a completely different meaning.”

Tupou has both New Zealand and Tongan heritage, and will often take influence from the traditional Tapa patterns of Tonga in the creation of his own unique designs. The construction of many of his images is hence predicated on the fusing of non-Western and Western imagery. The signifiers of multiple cultures interact with each other to create artworks that do not yield the straightforward reading that they initially imply.

“In a lot of ways, the use of patterning is trying to make a connection between myself and my Tongan heritage. The way that I use it now is still that, but at the same time it’s about disconnection as well. So, by creating my own patterns there’s not as much weight on ‘what is the meaning of this pattern. Where does this come from?’…I want to make work about moving, myself having moved from New Zealand and my father having moved from Tonga to New Zealand, that migration, that idea of living in a new country, that idea of keeping traditions alive and also adapting things. You see that all the time. Culture is fluid.”

Tupou’s artwork is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia (Canberra), the Cairns Regional Gallery, and Artbank. He has exhibited at KickArts Contemporary Arts (Cairns), Campbelltown Arts Centre, MARS Art Gallery (Melbourne), the Korean International Art Fair (Seoul), and Goulburn Regional Art Gallery.

This is Samuel Tupou’s first showing at Onespace Gallery in Highgate Hill, Brisbane. Please join us for opening night drinks on Saturday, 4 November, from 4-6pm.

Image: Samuel Tupou, The Seeker, 2016, 120cm x 160cm.