1. Tell us about one favourite piece in your gallery – what is it and where did it come from?
All the works in the exhibition resonate with me in their own particular way. Partly what motivated my desire to have them all share space is that they all speak to different experiences while simultaneously touching on some shared narratives and themes.
The work that stands out for me is used as the promotional image. Entitled ‘Masculine me tender’ the image was created by emerging visual artist Pati Solomona Tyrell – a current student at The Faculty of Creative Arts MIT.
2. Who is the artist?
Pati Solomona Tyrell is an openly gay Samoan man originally from Hamilton and currently based in Auckland pursuing a degree in visual arts. He is one of the cofounders of the FAFSWAG brand which produce an annual event called the FAFSWAG BALL. He also does design and photography as part of their Pacific LGBT arts collective.
3. What is significant about the artist?
A review of the show stated some ambivalence about the authenticity of a shared community experience. These types of readings can be indicative of how little reflection of any credible lived experience is actually reflected within the mainstream social consciousness about the Pacific LGBT community, even amongst Pacific people.
This is deliberate as a discussion about inclusion can’t be had without a discussion about exclusion. . This collection of works are all self-determined expressions constituted by their own realities, values and experiences but they are intended and designed to speak to a very particular individual and so the works often abandon any attempts to speak to anyone else.
For me Tyrell’s work addresses this in an assertive and very direct manner. While the viewer may be confused by the sight of this image, the subject in the portrait shows zero confusion about the way in which he views his own identity. As a result this work creates some subtle form of exclusion for certain viewers that are unable to place themselves within a familiar context. But i feel this is where discussion takes place and these ideas are then negotiated by the viewer, the subject and the artist.
4. Why is the work important?
Outside of Tyrells playful remix of gender binaries his work asserts an identity that he has no confusion about. Historically the Pacific body has been used to talk about sex, sexuality, gender by the masses. This includes advertisers, academics, anthropologists, other artist, medical and health services etc.
It’s rare that Pacific people are allowed to talk about these same issues even in reference to their own bodies amongst their own people. So for me this work reclaims the ownership of the Pacific body and the authority to which we are allowed to discuss not just our identity but the things that directly affect the representation of our bodies. For instance, who can see it, where it can be seen and of course what it looks like. This then of course expands into a broader discussion about health, safety, respect, visibility, desire and so on.
5. How does it fit with the rest of the gallery?
Masculine Me Tender centralises the surrounding discussions being had in the space and echo’s the thematic premise of self-determined narrative. I personally like that the show ask people to relate to ‘people’ by virtue of presenting images of people. I think Pati Solomona Tyrells work reflects back to the viewer a modern reflection of self and asks simply that it be acknowledged as part of the changing face of Pacific communities.
6. What’s on at the gallery over summer?
Poly Typical is running over the summer period till the 23rd of January. Please feel free to pop in and check it out if you’re in the area.