Hauaga – The Art of John Pule
by Nicholas Thomas. University of Otago PressREVIEWED BY CAROLINE JACKSON
The art of John Pule, one of New Zealand's most significant artists, spans many styles. As well as a painter, he is a drawer, printmaker, poet and novelist. Hauaga: The Art of John Pule is a comprehensive guide to his accomplishment in these various art forms.
Published this month, to coincide with Wellington City Gallery's major survey exhibition of Pule's work over the past 20 years, Hauaga looks in at Pule from different views as a poet, a painter, and a Niuean in a New Zealand context.
The author interviews the artist through the book, but it is more a conversation between friends than an interrogation. It's a fascinating insight into Pule's life and his path towards art and poetry.
As well as the interview with Nicholas Thomas, the book includes major essays by Peter Brunt and Gregory O'Brien.
The book's 80 plates span Pule's career from 1987 to 2009 and include paintings, etchings, lithographs and woodcuts. They follow his trajectory in style from his self-taught beginnings in abstract impressionism, through his discovery of traditional Niuean hiapo, to a new style that Thomas describes as "a pictorial language, that enabled him to create works that were powerfully original".
The work of John Pule is stunningly beautiful and emotional. It's seemingly simple, yet detailed. The colours are vibrant and powerful, and the sense of pattern and symmetry is evident throughout.
Pule's work touches on such topics as decolonisation and nationalism, ancestral culture, history, iconography and global events.
Pule is a compelling poet, discussing love, life and loss. A personal favourite is Seven Love Poems, his lithograph series of illustrated poems that are hauntingly beautiful.
Huauga describes the engrossing path of the artist that brought him to create this new originality in Pacific art, in a readable and aesthetically pleasing manner.
I couldn't put it down.
- © Fairfax NZ News