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Gow Langsford Gallery

Gow Langsford Gallery



John Pule

John Puhiatau Pule

b. 1962, Liku, Niue
Lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand

John Pule was born in the village of Liku in Niue, and immigrated to New Zealand at the age of two in 1964.  Pule first visited Niue as an adult in 1991 and has since returned a number of times.  This triggered a strong interest in the history and mythology of Niue which continues to inform his work to this day. Pule is an accomplished painter, printmaker, poet and writer.  His work is highly inventive, particularly in its adaptation of traditional Pacific art forms.  It is also challenging and provocative in content. 

Much of Pule's early painting focused on the legacy of Christianity and colonialism in the South Pacific, as well as his personal perceptions of romantic and sexual love.  Pule depicts the introduction of Christianity into the Pacific as a tragedy and his frequent inclusion of grief stricken figures represent Pacific Island people grieving from multiple psychological wounds.  Images of Christ reflect similar ideas, “I depicted him as a sickly, unhealthy person, being carried by Islanders, and also hanging loosely on the crucifix . . . he's up there for ages . . . no one wants to bring him down.  No one wants to have anything to do with darkness.  It's a dark subject, even though Jesus is supposed to generate light.” (John Pule, artist statement, 2001)

Following in the lead of artists such as Colin McCahon and Ralph Hotere, Pule later began to include his poetry on painted canvas.  These were political works, written in both English and the Niuean language, allowing Pule to further express his ideas and visual triggers.  “They hemmed in and held down a bristling alphabet brittle to the point of fracture.” (David Eggleton, 'John Pule: And the Psychic Territory of Polynesia', Art New Zealand, 2001, p.63)

Pule is perhaps most well known for his use of the aesthetics of Hiapo (Niuean tapa cloth).  Hiapo is cloth beaten out of paper mulberry bark, felted into rectangular sheets and then painted freehand following a loose grid-like pattern.  Traditionally Hiapo imagery depicted narratives of the journeys and history of Niuean people.  Pule extends this narrative into contemporary times, expressing his personal experiences as a Niuean living in New Zealand.  Pule also contemporises this traditional art form by substituting barkcloth for canvas and adapting its layout, forms and palette of ochres and earthy reds.  In 2005 Pule published the book Hiapo: Past and Present in Niuean Barkcloth in collaboration with Australian anthropologist Nicholas Thomas, documenting almost all painted Hiapo they located in their ten years of research across the Pacific, North America and Europe.

Over a period of time Pule has developed his own lexicon of geometric motifs and figurative elements.  Some of the figures in his work come directly from the Niuean mythology and others from his imagination. They include hybrid creatures incorporating birds, lizards, monsters and humans.  Human figures also enact performances that are explicitly sexual, such as the "missionary position", a provocative suggestion of the continuing domination of the church.  At other times they enact images of tears or death, suggesting the dislocation, pain and loss caused by migration and amalgamation with Western beliefs and society. “His paintings are miniature museums of ethnology. . . . Now and again, there is rupture and erasure, rubbing, smearing, blotting, but all done with delicacy and finesse-with ironic control.” (David Eggleton, ibid. p.65).

Land and identity are key concepts in Pule’s work. He paints works that mourn a loss of cultural identity and sense of permanence for both himself and the wider Pacific community.  In recent years Pule’s style has changed significantly - substituting the Hiapo grid structure and unstretched canvases, for stretched canvas supports, populated by blood-red cloud shapes that carry pockets of visual narrative. Traditional subjects of the hiapo such as fish and landscapes are placed next to ink sketches of aeroplanes (the modern vehicle of migration), churches, St John’s ambulances and skulls.

Land is so desirable that it is what many of the figures in Pule’s work search for - one man holds a landscape tauntingly out of another’s reach, while the temporal and translucent qualities of the drifting island-clouds allude to the lack of permanence.  A reoccurring motif is the vines of the ti mata alea (Cordyline tree), which in Niuean culture is believed to be the plant from which human life originated. By depicting this vine motif Pule represents the origin of his people, their foundation. This imagery holds great meaning for Pule, whose family brought native Niuean plants with them to New Zealand to establish in the soil of their new home, a common practice of Pacific cultures. It is this mixing of soils, this attempt to find anchorage, which is visible in his paintings. Pule is also a prolific printmaker - working in lithography, etchings and wood-cuts.  Text is often an important consideration in these works that can be both powerful and intimate.

Since 1991 Pule has exhibited extensively throughout New Zealand, Australia, the Pacific and Asia. Pule has held residencies at the Cultural Museum in Rarotonga in 2003, and at Galerie Römerapotheke in Zurich in 2005. Pule’s work has been represented in two Asia-Pacific Triennials at the Queensland Art Gallery, and in 2004 he exhibited as part Paradise Now! at the Asia Society in New York - the largest exhibition of New Zealand art held since Te Maori in 1984. A published author, Pule has completed the three novels, including The Shark That Ate the Sun (1992) and Burn My Head in Heaven (1998), as well as being a published poet. In 2000 Pule was the University of Auckland Literary Fellow and in 2002 took up a distinguished-visiting writer residence in the department of English at the University of Hawaii.  In 2004 he was honoured with the prestigious Laureate Award from the Arts Foundation of New Zealand.  In 2010 City Gallery Wellington hosted Hauaga a travelling survey exhibition of his career to date.

To view available works by John Pule please click here.

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2012The Blue Plateau of Polynesian Memory, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
Dark Saints, Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney
I was born with wings in my hands, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch
2011 John Pule: A Survey, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
2010 Hauaga, City Gallery, Wellington
2009 Nothing Must Remain, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
2007 Recent paintings, Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne
2006 Another Green World, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
2005 John Pule, Galerie Römerapotheke, Zurich, Switzerland
2004 Niniko Lalolagi - Dazzling Worlds, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
2003 Recent Painting, Gow Langsford Gallery, Sydney, Australia
The Wind reminds me how palpable and mythical my life was becoming, Bartley Nees Gallery, Wellington
New Lithographs and Etchings, Paper Graphica Gallery, Christchurch
2002  I had a mind as invisible as light, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
2001 A Sequence of Lyrics Dedicated to the Birth of a Lighthouse, Bartley Nees Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
2000 Fakaue Kia Koe Maui Pomare (Thanks to you Maui Pomare), Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
People Get Ready, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Auckland, New Zealand
1999 New Works Studio, Wellington, New Zealand
1998-99 Savage Island, Djamu gallery, Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia
1998 Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
 Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
1995 Malika, New Works Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
Woodcuts/Lithographs, Lane Gallery, New Zealand
Kokohonea, Judith Anderson Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
1992 Auckland City Art Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
1991 Dowse Art Museum, Wellington, New Zealand

Selected Group Exhibitions

Kermadec: Nine Artists explore the South Pacific, Tauranga Art Gallery, Tauranga; Wellington City Art Gallery, Wellington; Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum, Auckland; New Zealand High COmission, Tonga; Pew Foundation, Easter Island - Rapa Nui; Museo de Atre Contemporaneo, Santiago, Chile
Home AKL, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Auckland 
Melbourne Art Fair, Gow Langsford Gallery, Stand D08
2011 Oceania, Wellington Public Art Gallery, Wellington
21st Century: Art in the first Decade, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
John Leech and Gow Langsford Galleries Spring Catalogue Exhibition 2009, Gow Langsford Gallery
2008 Clock the Ton, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
2007 Turbulence: The Third Auckland Triennial, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Auckland
News From Islands, Campbelltown Gallery, Sydney
Dateline: Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin
2006 The 5th Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Tribute, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Auckland
2005  FREIZE, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
Scope Miami, Miami
Group Exhibition, Te Tuhi the Mark, Pakuranga, Auckland
Group Exhibition, Corbans Art Gallery, Henderson, Auckland
Te Moana Nui a Kiwa, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Auckland
Group Exhibition, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch
Future Tense: Security and Human Rights, Griffith University, Queensland College of Art, Brisbane
John Pule, Sofia Tekela-Smith and John Walsh, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2004 Paradise Now! Asia Society Museum, New York
South Pacific Arts Festival, Palau
2003 You are my sunshine, Bartley Nees Gallery, Wellington
Three Significant Paintings and two vintage photographs, Bartley Nees Gallery, Wellington
Iki, and thanks for the ika, Lithuania/Cook Islands/New Zealand
2003 Na, Jonothan Smart Gallery, Christchurch
2001 - 2003 Sea Knowing and Island Looking: Contemporary New Zealand and Pacific Art, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Auckland, New Zealand
2002 2002: The Year in Art, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney, Australia
Melbourne Art Fair 2002, Gow Langsford Galleries stand, Melbourne, Australia
Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia
2001 Catalogue Exhibition, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
Screens, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
2000 South Pacific Arts Festival, New Caledonia
1999 Wonderlands: views of life at the  end of the century, at the end of the world, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Plymouth
In other words, Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington
Gow Langsford Gallery at Span Gallery, Melbourne, Australia
1998 Wake Naima,Creating Together, Tjibaou Cultural Centre, Noumea
Picturing History, Centre of Contemporary Art, Christchurch
Australian Contemporary Art Fair 6, Melbourne, Australia, c/- Gow Langsford Gallery
1997 Group Show, University of the South Pacific, Fiji
Joint Show, New Zealand Ambassadors’ Residence
Vibes: Polynesian Island Group Show, Govett Brewster Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand
1996 Asia Pacific Triennale, Brisbane
Seventh Festival of the South Pacific, Samoa
Re- Imaging the Pacific, Australia National University, Canberra
1995 Kwangju Biennale, Korea
Island to Island, Cheju, Korea
Johannesburg Biennale, South Africa
Bottled Ocean: Contemporary Polynesian Artists, Auckland Art Gallery, New Zealand
1992 Contemporary Niue Artists, Fisher Gallery, Pakuranga
1991 Te Moemoea no lotefa, Traditional and Contemporary Pacific Island Artists. (National Tour)

Lithographs and Woodcuts Selected Exhibitions

1996 Oil and Water, Lane Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand
1995 Salamander Gallery, Arts Centre, Christchurch, New Zealand 
Marian McGuire Lithoprints Ltd, Christchurch, New Zealand
1993 Series/1995 Series CSA, Christchurch, New Zealand
1994 Pacific Island Group Show, ASA, Ponsonby, New Zealand
1993 Lime Works, Christchurch, New Zealand
Salamander Gallery, Arts Center, Christchurch, New Zealand
Taking Stock of the 90’s, Sarjeant Gallery, Wanganui, New Zealand

Poetry Tours

2003 The Second International Indigenous Authors Celebration Tour, Brisbane, Sydney, Katoomba, Alice Springs, Auckland
1986 North Island Group Tour
1985 North Island Group Tour
1984 South Island Group Tour
1983 New Zealand Tour with David Eggleton as Two South Auckland Polynesian Poets
1982 New Zealand Tour with Paul Luker

Selected Performance/ Poetry

2005 Strata, Auckland University
Poet’s Corner on “Artsville” (director, Ian Mune)
2003 Honouring Words 2003 Australia, Indigenous writers tour
1998 Ocean & Others Symposium, Museum of Sydney, Sydney
Raw Fishes, The Physics Room, Christchurch
The Bond of Time, 2nd edition, PWF, University of the South Pacific
1996 Re- Imaging the Pacific, Australia National University, Canberra
1995 The Post Colonial Body, University of Waikato
Bodies in Question Symposium, University of Auckland
Interdigitate, The Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre
1992 Pacific Impressions, Galaxy Theatre, Auckland
1991 The Grand Opening, Galaxy Theatre, Auckland
1988 The Last Blah Performance, St John Church Hall, Parnell
1985 The World and I, Poets Palace, France Street, Auckland
1984 The Human Cry, Knox Community Hall, Parnell
Twang and Cadence, Kingsland Community Hall, Auckland
1983 Maori Writers Read, The Depot

Workshops / Artists Talks

2005  Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki
2003 Avaurua Arts Society, Rarotonga
Cook Islands Teachers Training College, Rarotonga
Continuing Education, University of Auckland
1994 Pacific Writers Workshop, Tangata Pacifica, TV 2
1993 Voyages with Island Artists from Tonga, Vanuatu, Hawaii, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa, Niue, Tahiti, Cook Islands
1992 Pacific Peoples Workshop in Theatre, Drama, Literature
 Art Education in Aotearoa

Awards/ Residencies

2012 ONZM (officer of the said Order) for services as an author, poet and painter in the Queens Birthday Honours
2006 Artist in residence, University of the south Pacific, Fiji
2005 Romerapotheke Art Residency, Basel, Switzerland
2004 New Zealand Art Laureate, Arts Foundation of New Zealand
2003 Artist in Residence, Cultural Museum, Rarotonga
2002 Distinguished-Visiting Writer to Department of English at University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu
2000 Writer in Residence, Auckland University (English Department)
1998 Artist in Residence, Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture, USP, Fiji
 Artist in Residence, University of Canterbury, Christchurch
1997 Pacific Writers Fellow, University of the South Pacific
1996 Writer in Residence Fellowship, University of Waikato, Hamilton

Selected Publications

2006 Nicholas Thomas, John Puhiatau Pule; Another Green World, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland (Exhibition Catalogue)
2005 John Pule, Galerie Römerapotheke, Zurich, Switzerland (Exhibition Catalogue)
Hiapo: Past and Present in Niuean Barkcloth, Otago University Press, Otago (co-author Nicholas Thomas)
2004 Paradise Now!, Asia Society Museum, New York, USA
Kapakiloi Tagata, Pohutakawa Press, Auckland
Virginia Were, “Pacific Narratives”, Art News, Spring, 2004, p48-49
New Lithographs and Etchings, Papergraphica, Christchurch
2003 Michael Dunn, New Zealand Painting, A Concise History, AUP, Auckland
Venture: New Zealand Industry Magazine, June 2003
The Contemporary Pacific, A Journal of Pacific Island Affairs, University of Hawai’I Press, Hawai’I
Whetu Moana, ed. A.Wendt, R. Sullivan, R. Whaitiri, Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English, AUP, Auckland
2002 John Pule, When you return…, The 4th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art 2002, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia
2001 David Eggleton, “John Pule and the Psychic Territory of Polynesia”, Art New Zealand, #99, Winter 2001, p 62-65   
2000 Albert L. Refiti & Nicholas Thomas, People get ready, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki (catalogue)
Linda Herrick, “Sticking it to God”, NZ Listener, October 28, 2000, p50-51
New Worlds, Old Worlds, Art Museum of Missoula, Montana, USA
1999 Elizabeth Caughey and John Gow, Contemporary New Zealand Art 2, David Bateman, 1999, p. 48-51
1998  Nicholas Thomas, In Oceania, Duke University Press, USA
John Pule, Burn My Head in Heaven, Penguin, Auckland
1997 Nicholas Thomas, “Oceans Apart”, Asian Art News, May/June, 1997, p67-70
1996 Christina Thompson, Meanjin, University of Melbourne, Australia
Stephen Zepke, Art New Zealand, No.78, Autumn, Bodies in Question Review
United Nations Year Of Tolerance, Social Policy Department, Victoria University, Wellington
1995 Warwick Brown, 100 New Zealand Paintings, Godwit Press
Wendy Vaigro, Art Asia Pacific, October, Volume 2, No. 4 Bottled Ocean
Art New Zealand, No.77, Summer, (Backcover image)
Wendy Vaigro, Art New Zealand, No. 76, Spring, Interdigitate, Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre
Jane Sayle Art New Zealand, No. 75, Winter, Malika
Nicholas Thomas, Art New Zealand, No. 74, Autumn, Bottled Ocean
Nicholas Thomas, Oceanic Art, Thames and Hudson, Sydney
Printout Issue 9, Press Print, Auckland, Autumn
1994 Nicholas Thomas, The Art of John Pule, Art Asia Pacific, Vol1, No. 4
T. Ryan, Narratives of Encounters, Anthropological History of Niue, Auckland University
Trends Design, Vol 6, No 2, Trends Publishing, Auckland
Robert Beckett, New Zealand Home and Building, April/May, Auckland
Mark Cross, Art New Zealand, No. 66, Autumn, The New Hiapo of John Pule
1993 D. Scott, Would a Good Man Die? The Larsen Murder Case, Southern Cross
1992  Jane Griffin, Art New Zealand, No. 64, Spring, Pacific Islands Artists
New Zealand Books, Vol 2, Issue 7, Reviews by Keri Hulme, Witi Ihimaera
Stamp Magazine, Issue 33, Base Publications, Auckland
1991 Printout Issue 1, Arts/Literature, Printpress, Auckland

Selected Public Collections

Auckland Art Gallery, Toi o Tamaki, Auckland, New Zealand 
Auckland University, Auckland, New Zealand
Chartwell Trust Collection, Auckland, New Zealand
Fletcher Trust Challenge, Auckland, New Zealand  
Government of Niue, Niue
Wallace Trust Collection, Auckland, New Zealand
National Museum of Scotland, Scotland
Manukau City Council, Auckland, New Zealand
Robert McDougall Art Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand
Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand
Wellington High Court, Wellington, New Zealand
Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand, Wellington, New Zealand
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia
Pacific Studies Building, University of Auckland