Lucinda Bennett on Christina Pataialii

While Christina Pataialii has always used domestic paint as a medium alongside acrylic, she has never applied it so literally as in “Proximity and Distance”: she painted directly on the two largest walls of the atrium. cavernous in the Tauranga Art Gallery, as well as on sections of painters’ drop cloth that had been stapled to the wall. While many painters would be put off by the size of the space, Pataialii seemed comfortable with the scale. Compositionally, the two main walls functioned as smaller works that had been enlarged, without losing the artist’s usual level of detail, but with layers of texture and painterly effects that could not be achieved. on a full-size canvas – both figurative and structural effects. At this scale, a gray globe placed high immediately becomes a moon, and the brushstrokes extend as far as an arm can carry them, so that the language of painting merges with that of architecture.

The layering of acrylic and Pataialii house paint on painted fabric on painted walls creates a sense of continuity, evoking the dynamic familiarity of urban spaces, where the colors and signage of a building facade can change but l he architecture remains the same. Oily layers build up from the pollution and grime of everyday life, kids tag the wall, city workers apply mismatched pink sealants to their marks, but the wall is still the same you are on. walk every day. And by the time you read this, after the exhibition is over, those walls will have been sanded down and Pataialii’s marks will have been rolled away, but not before his drop canvas paintings are removed, after which they can be stretched. or simply rolled up like rugs. , ready to travel and open to endless re-imaginations in new contexts.

This is the tension in Pataialii’s work. There is always a back and forth between the permanence and the ephemeral, between the sedentary and the adaptive. This opposition is played out in part through his materials – the energetic acrylic arcs jutting out against the relentless flatness of the house painting – but also through a cultural dichotomy, which becomes clearer as the viewer takes a step back and sees abstract forms coagulate in the vernacular. reasons which occupy a preponderant place in his work. Here are the spiky cleats of work boots or rugby shoes – or maybe they’re not boots at all but fence posts circling a pitch. In all cases, they signal some kind of membership, whether it is to a class, a team or a place. It is through these personally significant motifs that Pataialii draws the viewer into the cultural space of painting. Even its use of pastels is reminiscent of the soft, sun-bleached tones of Auckland’s famous well-built public housing, homes in historically low-income areas that now sell for millions. It’s a palette that seems familiar to anyone who’s spent time in these neighborhoods, but it’s also a distinctly 1960s palette that was popular in New Zealand when Pataialii’s father immigrated from Samoa and worked as a house painter. These warm colors evoke nostalgia, but for a time Pataialii was too young to remember, a time when air travel and television narrowed the world. It was also a period of increased global mobility that saw Samoans immigrate in large numbers to New Zealand, when demand for labor was high – until the economic decline that followed the oil crises of the 1970s. , when a government in search of scapegoats turned to violence. dawn raids in search of immigrants from the Pacific who had exceeded their visas. Pataialii’s pink and brown palette recognizes the Janus face of history and the double-edged sword of nostalgia. His is a form of abstraction which owes its debt to social housing and to his immigrant father as much as to modernism.

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