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Kupesi in Colour - Opening Night

My Adelaide Fringe exhibition kicked off on the 6 of Feb 2020 and it was wonderful!


I was awarded a three month artist residency by Nexus Arts, and a solo exhibition at their gallery during the Adelaide Fringe - a MASSIVE opportunity!


The work I created focussed on Tongan Kupesi...


What's that?

You've never heard of 'Kupesi'?


Well, that's exactly why I was inspired to use it.


Kupesi is the ancient art form of Tongan pattern making.

Have you ever seen those large polynesian barkcloths?

They're usually seen during ceremonies, and decorated with bold geometric black and white patterns.


I had seen them before and I really wanted to know what those patterns actually mean. But do you think I could find much reliable information? No.


So, what's a girl to do but go to Tonga and find out for herself. So off I went, and it turns out that not a lot of Tongan people know the meanings behind the Kupesi.


When I discovered this travesty, I decided to make it my mission to celebrate this Tongan art and showcase it to South Australian audiences. I spoke to some very knowledgable people about the Kupesi and finally my questions (and prayers) were answered.


The exhibition I created in Adelaide showcases a variation of work inspired by Kupesi. Four conceptual works; laser cut glitter acrylic framed on Tongan Tapa cloth. A large wooden (painted) Kupesi; which viewers are encouraged to interact with. And four large framed abstract paintings.


It was really important for me to reinforce the underlying Pacific narrative, and so came my crazy idea to turn the gallery into a beach! - Kind of.


Three tonnes of sand were installed by me and some very generous helpers, to completely cover the floor. I really wanted viewers to have their toes in the sand when looking at the work - shoes optional! To complete the scene, ocean sounds were played in the background for the duration of the exhibition. It was a completely immersive experience.


Interestingly, most people took off their shoes and got involved. It really brought down that glass wall that often exists in galleries. People were relaxed, kids had fun playing in the sand, and it helped people let go of their inhibitions and have a go using the Kupesi. (Crayons and paper were supplied).


So here are some photos from the glorious opening night! I will be posting my artist talk soon, where I will go in to much more detail about the inspiration and process behind my work.


For now, enjoy!x

A young attendee taking a rubbing from the wooden Kupesi board.

My youngest guest enjoying the sand!


Relief seeing everything finally come together on the night.


Four conceptual pieces; framed glitter acrylic on Tapa cloth.


Close up details of my painting 'Pasifika - The Palms'


Footloose and fancy free!


Catching up with old friends on opening night.


Thank you to everyone that came out.xx


Photos from the night courtesy of Michelle Kenney Photography.


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