Kiliki ki he ongoongo faka-Tonga
by Katherine Mawson
The Tongan/New Zealand artist, Uili Lousi, opened his first exhibition in New York City at the MC Gallery today, July 31, 2014. The title of his exhibition is “Making Space Speak”. His work depicts the inner movements of the Royal Tongan Motifs, "making space speak … magic, perhaps, between worlds".
Uili is a self-taught artist who began his journey as an academic interested in philosophy and pure mathematics. His professional career has been in the health and fitness industries. His life long interest has been in the mathematical dimensions of Fata-O-Tu'i-Tonga, or, The Royal Tongan Motifs. His artwork depicts the motion of The Royal Tongan Motifs in stillness, and expresses their rhythm, impulse, and symmetry in space. The repetitive motifs create a visual matrix, presenting a dialectical process of transition from traditional to contemporary, and representation to abstraction. He takes The Royal Tongan Motifs into a new realm of Pacific/Moana Art, one that permeates space, emitting Light and Energy. It is form beyond the formless.
Beyond the beauty and aesthetics of Uili’s work is also a compelling backstory of this first exhibition. Uili arrived in New York towards the end of June this year, intending to show his work but without a space in which to show it. As he said during his moving opening speech, “I had a vision and that vision was to show my work in New York City”. Through a series of serendipitous meetings and hard work he was able to secure space in a midtown gallery and open the show to the public just over five weeks later. Surely a defining moment for Uili as he realises his dream.
Uili's success is a testament to his dedication, commitment and hard work in navigating the many different spaces of Manhattan since the day he arrived. Uili and I met quite by chance and I am sure that was the case for many others who were at the opening last night. Uili really lives his work and through his work and I am sure others that know him would agree. Below are some comments from folks attending the opening:
“A stunning display of juxtapositions- a harmony of South Sea patterns that waves and weaves throughout Oceania. Uili’s work is hypnotic and opens your eyes to shaping and weaving that surrounds us everyday. In NYC, I see his work woven into the structures that shape our skyline, into the pulsating grid of its streets and avenues. ” Etieni Leomiti
“I am full of admiration for this Tongan artist who made a dream come true through determination, dedication, and Polynesian connections.” Tekau Frere
“A vibrant exhibit of work that depicts movements between different spaces and between different cultures through the use of geometric shapes derived from Uili’s Tongan heritage and from his interest in mathematics. His use of symmetrical shapes provide great depth, making his work unique, vibrant and staying true to the inner movements which makes his work quite abstract. As a Tongan, the inner movements between different spaces resonates well with me as it speaks also to navigating experiences and spaces not just as a Tongan person but also with experiences of migrating and living in New Zealand and now in New York. Truly a proud moment for me to be at Uili’s opening and to share his achievements” Malia Talakai
Uili Lousi "Making Space Speak"
549 West 52nd Street, 8th Floor
(Between 10th and 11th Avenues)
Monday and Tuesday by appointment
Wednesday to Friday 12.00-6.00pm