In her text accompanying Christina Pataialii’s Masters of Fine Art exhibition Slow Jamz Til Midnight (remix), critic Lana Lopesi describes the artist as “painting a new Aotearoa [New Zealand] visual identity”. A few months later, critic Anthony Byrt declared: “For Pataialii, it’s vital that her work reaches towards international currents, beyond the specifics of her personal experiences – something her immense skill as an image-maker, who riffs on everything from Picasso to graffiti and The Simpsons, is sure to guarantee.”
These two critics are not the only ones taking notice. While still studying towards her Masters of Fine Art at Auckland’s Whitecliffe School of Art and Design in 2017, Pataialii racked up five exhibitions around the country and bagged the 2017 Iris Fisher Scholarship. In 2018, she has continued to paint and exhibit prolifically, mounting three solo shows, participating in two group exhibitions, and taking up a high-profile spot for the Auckland Art Fair’s Projects 18, for which she created a huge site-specific mural – the first thing punters would see as they entered the fair.
Pataialii paints the globalised Aotearoa she grew up in; the one that consumes more American content than local, that eats fa’apapa and watches spaghetti westerns, the one where a painting of a tiger is inspired as much by Mike Tyson’s pet as by those ubiquitous mink blankets found on beds all over the country. Moving effortlessly between abstraction and figuration (with many of her works sitting somewhere in between), Pataialii has a singular eye for colour and an unwavering confidence across a range of materials and styles. As Byrt writes, she is a “pure talent who does things with a spraygun or brush other painters can only sit back and puff out their cheeks over”.
In her recent exhibition with Auckland gallery mother?, Pataialii showed a series of small works on paper. Watery pink landscapes were hung alongside an intricate portrait of professional wrestler and actor Stone Cold Steve Austin, a group of modernist geometric compositions rendered in the washed out hues of West Auckland houses, and an impeccable copy of a Missy Elliot album cover. A few months later, she showed seven large works made with acrylic, spray paint, house paint and charcoal on stretched drop sheet, filled with the suggestive shapes of cabbage trees, picket fences and coffee being poured.
Having just opened her latest solo exhibition, Solid Gold, at Te Tuhi, Pataialii is already working towards an exhibition with Tim Melville Gallery in 2019.
Image: Christina Pataialii, Pre-Post (diptych), 2018. Acrylic, house paint, spray paint on drop sheet, 122 x 259cm. COURTESY: THE ARTIST.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 87, JAN – MAR 2019.