10 Sep 2013

Pacific motifs fused with Western pop art by PNG artist

4:26 pm on 10 September 2013

Pacific cultural and artistic motifs have been fused with Western pop art in an exhibition in New Zealand by Papua New Guinea-born artist Martin Heuston.

Pac Art is showing this week in Wellington's Thistle Hall Gallery.

Martin Heuston spoke about the background to his intricate pieces to Johnny Blades, and told him how, as a young boy growing up in the Sepik, he was scared out of his wits by traditional PNG carvings and sculptures.

MARTIN HEUSTON: These elliptical eyes, some of them had elliptical eyes, and then you had carvings. Yeah, there was a certain presence to some of them. Some of the shamanistic... their witchcraft, their animism, it's just unexplained phenomena. It's informed my work immensely. And also, too, when I see some of the African carvings they've got that same sort of presence to them, too. And I can sort of see how Picasso was taken by them. They're just one of those things that you can't sort of explain. Some of them are beautifully carved and they're very, very intricate, and others are crudely made, but the cruder ones, they've got the presence like some of the intricate ones, too.

JOHNNY BLADES: Your work seems to be full of various Pacific motifs, quite a range.

MH: I've been into a lot of the oceanic work or Pacific tribal art for years, and I've studied their little motifs, the Maori tikis, the Samoan motifs, from Pasifika all the way to the likes of Easter Island, and also I've been influenced by the Aztec and the Mayan mandalas. So I guess you sort of gestate things, and then when you start drawing it sort of becomes part of of your vocabulary, visual vocabulary. Like, I know hundreds and hundreds of... It's almost like a language, you know? A major influence were the music icons like Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Bob Marley. So I virtually use the motifs and the influence of the Western...

JB: There doesn't seem to be a lot of artists out there who are infusing traditional Pacific ideas and forms with pop art. Do you know of many others who are doing it?

MH: Not that I know of. WIthin the contemporary scene there may be some. I've even gone on the net, surfing for artists who are fusing pop art and oceanic art, but I haven't found anyone that's doing what I'm doing. The only thing I can find akin to some of the work is some of the tattoo artistswho do some quite intricate work.