Beginning his career as a poet and novelist, John Pule expanded his practice in the late 1980s and early 1990s to include drawing, printmaking, painting, performance and film. Born on the coral atoll of Niue, Pule migrated to Auckland, New Zealand, at a young age. The experiences of migration and dislocation, as well as the exploration of his Niuean cultural heritage, continue to act as catalysts for Pule's practice.
Traditional hiapo (Niuean bark cloth) is an artistic departure point for Pule, often combined with elements from Polynesian mythology and his own personal narratives. Hiapo are based around a loose grid-like structure, containing images referring to Niuean mythology, genealogy and oral history.
While Pule’s early art works were based on the structural tradition of the hiapo, his more recent works largely abandon its linear formality. Recurring symbols and motifs in his work include hybrid bird-like lizards, botanical motifs, birds and clouds, the Christian cross and the church, and his own poetry. Pule combines Niuean motifs with recognisable Polynesian and Western symbols in a personal response to the colonisation of the Pacific and the broader issues of displacement, migration and return.
John Pule has exhibited extensively across the Asia–Pacific region and internationally since he began painting in 1987. Important solo exhibitions in New Zealand include ‘Dazzling Worlds', Gow Langsford Gallery, in 2004; and ‘People get ready', Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, in 2000. In 2004, he participated in ‘Paradise Now? Contemporary Art from the Pacific’ at the Asia Society, New York. He has recently co-authored a book with noted anthropologist Nicholas Thomas, entitled Hiapo: Past and Present in Niuean Barkcloth 2005. His novels include The Shark that Ate the Sun (1992) and Burn My Head in Heaven (1998).
Gallery 1.2, GoMA / Gallery 1.4, GoMA (Kids' APT)
A full-colour publication is available from the Gallery Store.