Paula Tikay from Chile in ‘Here and Out’ at Toi Pōneke. The presence of animal kaitiaki and greenery hold the stunning silhouettes of a striking indigenous woman in portrait.
Street art has a unique hold on Pōneke. It defines our steps through the cobbled paths to and from work, it provides the colorful backdrop to our memories of meandering with friends; it could even haunt our first love affairs.
An art form that has exploded over the decades, we see it define the many challenges facing the real world, the unorganized world, the world of edges and transformation. So how, in this ever-changing landscape, does street art evolve with us, when the world has evolved so much beyond what we have all known?
Street art has an elusive culture – one of rebellion, resistance and respite from the heaviness of this world.
Produced by the Mango Collective, curated by Mirella Moschella and featuring a line-up of internationally acclaimed female street artists, here and outside is currently on display at the Toi Pōneke Gallery. In 2020, at the height of the Covid wave, Moschella decided to bring together prolific street artists and celebrate their contribution to street art around the world.
* Te Hīkoi Toi: What cures a turbulent city?
* Te Hīkoi Toi: Mourning, water and arts in the city
* Te Hīkoi Toi: Loss of Innocence and Intergenerational Healing
* Toi Pōneke exhibition highlights Wellington artists
Moschella sourced works from nine women and worked within the collective to bring the works to our shores. The show features four Maori female performers and five from other countries, including indigenous people.
The works of the Wellington-based and now infamous Dream Girls Art Collective are well known in our city. The haunting whirlwinds of Gina Kiel’s ethereal beings, the bold gazes of Xoë Hall’s many kaitiaki and the harsh wisdom of Miriama Grace-Smith’s visions are a familiar sight, from Tory St to the waterfront.
For now, their “Exquisite Kaitiaki” can be found at Toi Pōneke, alongside pieces by each of the artists relating to the subject matter – how is street art transforming in the solitude of a global pandemic?
Covid burnout is real, and to be perfectly blunt, it was a relief to step into a space that speaks to it, but doesn’t blast Covid images, messages and reminders. What he does smartly is demonstrate how our artists flip the narrative. Our arts have always commanded reality out of the shadows and revealed the humanity within; this exhibition explores the beauty of this potential.
At the door to the space, four women wait on the wall to cast safe visions through the entrance. Paula Tikay (Chile) works mainly in America and Europe. Their indigenous ancestry is depicted in a way unique to their culture, but so strongly that this Maori art writer could read some of the meanings within. The presence of animalistic kaitiaki and greenery hold the stunning silhouettes of an indigenous woman striking in portrait, whispering stories of intergenerational protection and power.
Going through, there is a horned spine sticking out of the wall like a sculpture. It is flanked by two portraits. Haunting, tail and paintings are by Belgian and Hong Kong artist Caratoes, who explores the inner workings of the perpetually tortured mind. This stands in front of a moving image video of Fluro (Aotearoa) – a stunning light box playing muted fluorescent motion.
Around the corner from the gallery, I was struck by the large-scale mural by Gelo (Colombia), whose color palette of purple and yellow reflected the beautiful beauty of that Wellington afternoon. I am struck by the complicit gaze of a mother; the hopeful wonder of youth and the questioning gaze of life lived. This is where the street art aspect of this collective really begins to reveal itself.
The shadow of another woman in the background pulls the image back into space. The warmth of this one is contagious and repurposed on a papier-mâché mound, where small holes around the top allow one to peek inside its cavern, catch a glimpse of a strangely human-like cat, perched on a couch, watching a video trailer for the exhibit at hand. The feline character is the protagonist of a series of smaller prints by graffiti artist and muralist Meki (Peru). The Andean Cat is the most endangered feline in all of the Americas, and as an extension of the show, it can be found as a 5-meter-tall puppet replica around the city.
Before leaving, I was struck by the work of Janine Williams (aka. Lady Diva of The Most Dedicated Crew in Auckland) ‘Sold’. It depicts an inverted row of picket fences across white space, each picket spike painted red or blue. The word “pepper” comes to mind, an old term for how newly formed councils would dampen the fusion of cultures within communities – often leading to racial and societal tension on the streets of our newly formed townhouses.
Outside, a mural by Auckland-based Holly Roc and Grace-Smith titled “Trust the Process” spans the driveway. All we have to do is trust the process.
- Here and Out, Toi Pōneke Gallery, Wellington, until April 22 A series of online discussions begin on Saturday April 2 from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., streamed live from the Toi Poneke Facebook page.