Andy Leleisi’uao: Unbeautiful evening

In late January this year, Tāmaki Makaurau saw enough rain for two months in one night. Many in Māngere were affected, including New Zealand-born Samoan artist Andy Leleisi’uao (Lalomauga ma Palauli), whose home and studio was devastated by the murky waters of the subsequent flooding.

With a predominantly Māori and Pacific community nestled in the reservoirs of South Auckland, Māngere is often pigeonholed as a disadvantaged, crime-ridden area. Leleisi’uao, who grew up in the ‘275’, recalls his blue-collar family’s experience in New Zealand as being minorities of colour in a Pākehā society.

Unbeautiful evening is a visual morsel encapsulating Leleisi’uao’s ongoing commitment towards his family, friends, and community. This selection of social and political works (1996–2021) reflects a Brown artist working on a Brown street in a Brown community. Speaking on issues that continue to be relevant today, acting as a mirror into the experiences of a Māngere household. It is an ode to Māngere’s blue-collar families that continue to wade through, resiliently and empathetically, regardless of stereotypes.

Leleisi’uao is deeply grateful to his family and friends for reaching out after 27 January. Just as water cycles through its various properties, when its swells settle and throats are quenched, a new process in life begins.

Curated by Paulina Bentley

Andy Leleisi’uao is one of the most significant Pacific artists working in New Zealand today. His paintings are rich in personalised mythology and tell an open-ended story. Early work was influenced by comic strips and visual narrative has remained an important aspect to Leleisi’uao’s practice. His unique iconography is fantastical and imaginative. He often incorporates puzzle pieces, crosswords and Rubik’s cubes, giving the impression that his figures are attempting to make sense of things. His work frequently references social problems and cultural complexity. “Andy’s prescient talent for seeing who we are, what we are like and what we do is a signature of his art.” (Ron Brownson, 2009) Born in 1969, Andy Leleisi’uao grew up in Māngere, South Auckland.

He was awarded a scholarship to attend AUT and received a Master of Fine Arts with honours in 2002. He has exhibited throughout New Zealand and has been involved in solo and group exhibitions in Australia, Rarotonga, Germany, Taiwan, and the USA. Leleisi’uao was awarded residencies at the Casula Powerhouse in Sydney and the MacMillian Brown Centre for Pacific Studies at the University of Canterbury in the late 1990s. In 2009 he received the Asia NZ Foundation/Taipei Artist Village residency, and the McCahon House residency in Titirangi, 2010. Most recently, Leleisi’uao was the paramount winner of the 2017 Wallace Art Award receiving a 6 month residency in New York

Andy Leleisi’uao is represented by Artis Gallery. His work is included in the permanent collections of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu, Pataka Museum and Art Gallery, Te Papa Tongarewa, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, the Chartwell Collection, the Wallace Arts Trust collection, Casula Powerhouse, Sydney and the Museum of Ethnography, Frankfurt, Germany.

25 March - 28 May 2023

Photos by Sam Hartnett    


The Big Idea - Creative heartbreak, aroha & resilience in Auckland's flooding state of emergency
The Big Idea - Black Saturday and why you need to know about it
Mapping Creative Hustle interview
Artis Gallery profile