Niki Hastings-McFall’s artworks enliven Auckland sites “The singing of birds … the most melodious wild musick … ever heard” (Joseph Banks, 1770) will welcome visitors to Niki Hastings-McFall’s Fale Ula installation in Aotea Square during the 2015 Auckland Arts Festival (4-22 March).
An interactive sound element, developed in conjunction with Hubbub Studios, responds directly to people’s presence within an oval of 20 trees in Aotea Square. Each tree bears the artist’s “polynisation” trademark of brightly coloured synthetic lei. The project, based on the Samoan fale will enhance the square’s function as a place for people to relax, gather and share. “Hopefully you will get a sense of a delineated space that contains and holds,” Niki says.
Fale Ula is part of five linked sites in Auckland in 2015 that will feature the artist’s work. These include Flock, a solo exhibition at Whitespace (March 10-28) comprising stylised bird forms based on early Polynesian carved motifs, and an installation at the Q Theatre of moving star motifs. Niki’s work is also included in two major Auckland Art Gallery Toi Tamaki exhibitions, one focusing on New Zealand art that opens on 7 March, and the Wunderruma show, opening in mid-July.
Using sound and moving image is just the latest innovation for an artist whose career spans more than 20 years. During that time her work has featured in numerous exhibitions and installations – and is held in collections – throughout Aotearoa New Zealand, Europe, Australia and the Pacific.
Niki’s work is instantly recognisable thanks to its originality and spanning of genres – including jewellery, sculpture, mixed media assemblage and installations – and because it draws on aspects of our cultural landscape in disarming and provocative ways. “I enjoy giving objects a second life. I am intrigued by the story within an object, how something inanimate can record and encode emotion, information and history. Objects have a power to generate warmth and connection.”
For example, when you ask Niki about synthetic lei, she celebrates their capacity to evoke varied responses. “They can trigger recognition, such as the resilience of Samoan migrant families who used plastic strappings from factories to maintain their material culture. The lei I use in my work can be seen as enveloping natural objects akin to the restrictive grip of colonisation. Or they can illuminate global issues such as how a plastic replica of an item once made of natural materials is made in China, imported here and the Pacific so it can be draped over the shoulders of tourists arriving off planes and cruise ships.”
Niki is well placed to explore such complexities, with an English mother and Samoan father, and raised by maternal grandparents in West Auckland. While these understandings undoubtedly inform her work she is ultimately just as interested in others’ reactions to it. “It’s important not to explain too much, or you cut off responses,” she says.
Deborah White, Director Whitespace Contemporary Art: “The continued international attention surrounding Niki Hastings-McFall is indicative of her status as one of the foremost significant artists of Aotearoa. Niki makes work that defines her experience as an artist of the 21st century, culturally diverse, connected with her communities and engaged with social and environmental issues. Her talent lies in continually presenting work that is perceptive, bold and visually spectacular.”
Dr Caroline Vercoe, Head of Art History at the University of Auckland: “Much of Hastings-McFall’s work has been discussed in terms of cultural identity, an exploration of her identity, simultaneously reflecting on and referring to Pacific cross-cultural histories and colonial legacies. Her art practice is much broader though, for the dynamics of identity resonate in more complex and multifaceted ways … Filtered by her personal experiences and the open-ended engagement with the everyday, her works mine the visual traditions of the past, offering new insights into their legacies and possibilities in the present.”
4 March – 22 March
TimeOut Festival Garden, Aotea Square, Auckland< BACK TO LISTINGS