Ancient art of Lalava comes to Fresh Gallery Otara

Tongan artist Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi is bringing to Manukau new paintings and haukulasi based on Tongan lalava (coconut sennit lashing). An internationally renowned sculptor and artist, Tohi is holding his new solo exhibition, Colour and Contrast, at Manukau’s Fresh Gallery Otara.

This exhibition reflects Tohi’s continuing exploration of lalava patterns and their re-representation in modern materials. His recent work uses classic patterns – some with traditional sacred hues and others with exceptional infusions of colour.

A new series of paintings will be exhibited alongside large-scale sculpture together with works of haukulasi (flattened lalava in wool), bringing ancient Tongan craft forms into a modern art context. Mr Tohi explains how the eighteenth and nineteenth century clubs and carvings inspired the small figures, and he has surrounded these with pattern just as they are on the artifacts.

The council’s Pacific Arts Coordinator Ema Tavola says it’s an enormous privilege to have Tohi choosing to exhibit at Fresh Gallery Otara. “It’s a marker of the gallery’s place in the wider Pacific arts spectrum.

”He is arguably the most important and esteemed practising contemporary Pacific artist in the world. The fact that he has come here means that Fresh Gallery Otara is well and truly on the map.”

The gallery’s public programme features a talk by Tohi on 28 March where he’ll explain the methods of his work.

Tohi, who now resides in Onehunga, lived for many years in New Plymouth, where he was a founding member of the Te Kupenga Stone Sculpture Symposium. In 2007, he organised the Manuland Sculpture Symposium at Mangere Bridge. Currently his work is showing in Taiwan as part of the Le Folauga exhibition at Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts.

What:                           Colour and Contrast
When:                          20 March – 11 April 2009
Opening:                      Thursday 19 March, 6pm
Artist’s floor talk:          Saturday 28 March, 12noon – 1.30pm
Where:                         Fresh Gallery Otara, Shop 5, 46 Fairmall, Otara Town Centre, Manukau City
Entry:                           Free

For more information on Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi, see

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