Artwork Detail

Paramount Winner, 1995 Wallace Art Awards.

Ivivia’s powerful symbolism and dynamic composition make it a commanding work. It is closely related to a print in the Auckland Art Gallery collection titled Taula Aitu. Those that possess the quality of ‘ivi’ivia’ (from ‘ivi’, meaning bone, and ‘ivi-tu’, meaning backbone) are said to carry an energised power given to them from the spiritual world. The words ‘taula’ (anchor), and ‘aitu’ (spirit), describe how these characters do not generate the supernatural powers themselves, but serve as conduits between the spiritual and physical world, channelling power from the gods and anchoring them to the corporeal world.

Of the three figures depicted, two (right) are male, one (left) female. The female is distinguished by the use of the feminine frangipani motif, while the male figures are more literally described. They represent demi-gods such as Maui, who have risen from time, to fulfil prophecy.

The organic quality of the figures is especially noticeable in the female, whose body is almost completely abstracted by plant imagery. This represents the drawing of energy from the natural environment, to regenerate the earth. The inclusion of the female character in this set of demi-gods shows the mana that females posses in Samoan culture, which prior to colonisation functioned as a matriarchal society. Today in villages in Samoa, it is not uncommon for community decisions to be conferred upon by men, and then submitted to a female elder in the community for final approval.

The navigational symbols of sun and moon present in Ivivia appear in many of Feu’u’s works; his practice is rich in symbolic visual narratives. Traditional Samoan kupesi motifs, referencing the traditional art forms of tapa and tatau, provide decorative, symbolic and metaphorical elements in most of his practice.

Feu’u holds the dual title of Ali’i (chief, genealogically linked to the gods) and Tulafale (orator) bestowed on him by his mother’s and father’s families respectively. The dichotomy of the two roles, one sacred and inactive, the other secular and active, may help to explain the powerful combination of symbolism and narrative that Feu’u brings to his work.

Catalogue text:
Published on the occasion of the Twenty Wallace Art Awards Paramount Winners Exhibition.
14 February to 22 April 2012 at The Pah Homestead, TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre and 2 August to 30 September 2012 at the Wallace Gallery Morrinsville.
Oil paint, oil stick on canvas
1540 x 1820mm
Signed and dated
Accession number

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