7 Jun 2024

New cinematic video works shot in Samoa tackle themes of migration, home, change and identity, while landscape works by a renowned printmaker explore the relationship between land, sky and water.

The collection of landscapes in Marilynn Webb: Folded in the Hills surveys the work of the late Ngāpuhi, Te Roroa and Ngāti Kahu artist Marilynn Webb (ONZM) (1937–2021).

Also opening at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū on the same day, Saturday 8 June, is Sione Tuívailala Monū and Edith Amituanai: Toloa Tales, featuring two video works filmed last year in Samoa, with funding from Creative New Zealand.

Marilynn Webb Cloud Landscape 2 (detail) 1973. Linoleum engraving. Collection of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery, purchased 1973 with funds from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery Society

Vaimoe by Edith Amituanai (MNZM) centres on her aunt, who has returned to Samoa after living in America for many years, says Pouarataki Curator Māori Chloe Cull.

“Vaimoe reflects on her life and the hardships she’s experienced. Returning home is also fraught with complexity – Samoa has changed in ways she hadn’t expected during her time abroad. It’s a very moving story, interwoven with beautifully captured scenes of everyday Samoan life.”

The exhibition title Toloa Tales references a Samoan proverb, ‘e lele le toloa ae ma’au lava ile vai’ about the toloa (duck) that always returns to water, conveying the idea that no matter where you go in the world, you can always return home.

“Also reflecting the toloa is Lanu Moana is the Warmest Colour by Tongan artist Sione Tuívailala Monū.

Monū traces their whakapapa to Samoa, which they were visiting for the first time, and explores identity and the Pasifika queer experience while documenting their friend’s participation in the 2023 Miss Samoa Fa’afafine Pageant.

“Monū brings fictional aspects into the narrative – creating a playful work that showcases beauty and diversity in an incredibly cinematic and epic way,” Ms Cull says.

“The Marilynn Webb survey exhibition complements the films through its exploration into the power of connection to place – between people and the land, tangata and whenua,” says Gallery Curator Melanie Oliver.

“For more than five decades Webb specialised in printmaking, significantly helping to lift the mana of the artform in Aotearoa. Cascading lines are a defining feature of her work, as is the contrast between embossed lines and smudged pastels. She also developed a unique form of intaglio, linoleum engraving and surface printing.”

Webb was very engaged with feminism and environmental and political issues.

Her series Taste Before Eating protests against the New Zealand government’s “Think Big” campaign of the 1970s. Works like Drowned Clutha Pudding and Mining Crumble satirically mimic recipes while exposing the environmental impact of the contentious policy.

The exhibition has been curated and toured by Lauren Gutsell, Lucy Hammonds and Bridget Reweti (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi) of Dunedin Public Art Gallery.

Marilynn Webb: Folded in the Hills and Sione Tuívailala Monū and Edith Amituanai: Toloa Tales run from 8 June to 13 October 2024 at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū. On opening day, a curator talk about Marilynn Webb is at 11am and an artist talk featuring Monū and Amituanai in conversation with John Vea is at 2pm.

Edith Amituanai, Vaimoe (still), 2024. Courtesy of the artist.

Image 1 credit:  Sione Tuívailala Monū, Lanu Moana is the Warmest Colour (still), 2024. Courtesy of the artist.