Cerisse Palalagi: Motunei, June 19 - September 12, 2010

Cerisse Palalagi: Motunei
June 19 – September 12, 2010
Deane Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand



Art historian Nicholas Thomas writes in the catalogue notes for the exhibition Savage Island Hiapo (1998) that while Niuean hiapo (bark cloth) painting shares stylistic features with other painted or printed forms of tapa from the Pacific, it is distinctive in its use of freehand painting, the diversity of the motifs, and the irregularity of the patterning – painterly practices which Auckland based artist Cerisse Palalagi (Niuean, Maori), like John Pule before her, refers to as the cultural foundation for her art practice.

Characterised by an impressive mastery of a wide array of print and mark making processes such as silk screening, photographic emulsions, hand painting and drawing, embroidery and photography, Palalagi’s art merges hiapo practices with contemporary printing and portraiture.

Her works respond to her experience of current social trends and developments in Pacific cultures and community. Palalagi explains, “The patterns I use are a reflection of my identity. I like the juxtaposition of cultural symbols and people combined in my portraits. They are usually of people in my family, including myself. This is my way of reviving the culture, and showing people that our culture and language is not dead.”

Motunai, a Niuean word referring to ‘people of the land’, can also be translated as Motu nei meaning ‘this land or island’ in Maori language. However Motunei is more than just a reference to Palalagi’s Niuean and Maori heritage. Recognising the historical significance of landscape in Pacific cultures, Motunei acknowledges Pacific communities who now look beyond their home shores seeking a sense of belonging within a global community. Referring to the advent of fibre-optic telecommunications as a recent catalyst for this shift in social and cultural behaviours, Palalagi explores the influence of mainstream media and online cultures of communication on Pacific youth. Of particular interest to Palalagi is the influences of pop culture and the age of ‘digital devices’ on Pacific youth.
- Reuben Friend, Curator Maori and Pacific Art

Artist Biography
Cerisse Palalagi is of Niuean and Maori (Ngati Pikiao) descent. She was born in 1977 and lives in Auckland. She works predominantly in the mediums of printing, painting and drawing and more recently photography. Palalagi graduated from Auckland University’s Elam School of Fine Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2000, and is currently studying towards a Masters of Visual Arts and Design at Auckland University of Technology. Palalagi has recently completing a lithography print residency (2010) at the Auckland Print Studio, Unitec New Zealand, Auckland, and in 2008 attended the Tenth annual Pacific Arts Festival, Pago Pago, America Samoa.

Palalagi is an active member of Toi Whakataa Press, the Maori Print Collective and exhibits regularly in Aotearoa New Zealand and abroad. Recent exhibitions include Native Coconut (2010), Fresh Gallery Otara, Auckland, Taa Moemoea (2009), Solander Gallery, Wellington, Strengthening Sennit (2008), St Paul St Gallery, Auckland, Red Thread (2008), Okaioceanikart Gallery, Auckland, Ranea (2008), Fresh Gallery Otara, Auckland, Pocahontas meets Hello Kitty (2007), Richard F Brush Art Gallery, St Lawrence University, New York, and Squeak Toy Animals (2006), Wisconsin, USA.

For more information, please visit the Dean Gallery website.