Andy Leleisi’uao’s work, titled “Mangere Aroha”, will be opened to the visiting Pacific Mission delegates led by New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern in a private exhibition at midday today before the public exhibition at 6pm.
The 16 metre painting was rejected by the Mangere’s Art Centre for being too expressive and too “visually powerful” for its planned public location.
It went into storage before the work, regarded as one of the most extraordinary murals created for Manukau City, caught Bergman Gallery director Ben Bergman’s eyes.
“It was with absolute delight that I acquired Andy Leleisi’uao’s magnificent work Mangere Aroha in 2010,” Bergman said.
“My first experience with this large scale mural was all-encompassing. Invited to view the work in progress, its enormous gravitational field pulled me into an alternative realm roaring with genesis energy.
“I was captivated, hypnotised, my eyes meandering with the characters in play before me. This was a renaissance work. Andy’s astute observations of a displaced Pacific community fused together in an epic construct befitting Hieronymus Bosch.”
The 48-year-old Leleisi’uao, who was commissioned to paint the mural, said his work represented the communities working together for the progress and prosperity of Mangere.
He said it was also a tribute to the pride of Mangere: the likes of Valerie Adams, Mark Hunt, Frank Bruce, David Lange, late Jonah Lomu, Joseph Parker, David Tua, Jason Taumalolo and Fatu Feu’u, among others.
“Through this work, especially if you look at the two heads, I’m trying to portray that everyone is looking out for each other, no one turns their back on each other. To me, that’s what community is all about,” Leleisi’uao said.
“The horns are traditionally used by artists to explain people who are enlightened, wise or special. They are symbolic of rays of light rather than representing horns of devil or anything as such, and that was part of the problem with the community (Mangere). They couldn’t understand or interpret them that way.
“When you actually look through it, there is no violence or anything. It’s all about giving.” Mangere Aroha led Leleisi’uao to “Harmonic People”, which earned him the prestigious Wallace Arts Trust Paramount Award last year.
The softly-spoken Samoan artist said the iconography from Mangere Aroha inspired him to paint his award-winning work.
Leleisi’uao said he was excited to exhibit his work to the New Zealand delegatation which is likely to include MP for Mangere and Minister for Pacific Peoples, William Sio.
He is also looking forward to the public exhibition which will be opened by Canterbury Museum director Anthony Wright at 6pm tonight.
“Everybody can take a meaning and story out of his art. It doesn’t matter how much I look at it, I can’t get to the bottom of it. There is so much depth with all the interactions that’s going on and that is the characteristic of Andy’s work,” Wright said.
“It is populated by millions of creatures and some of them you can feel real, aligns with human, and others you wonder whether they are mystical animals or mythical beast.
“I love the way it is being portrayed and it always has a sense of love and sharing.
“For me, it’s sort of like vast tapestry of particularly Pacific life which obviously flows into Mangere which is one of the greatest Pacific cities in the world.”
- Rashneel Kumar