Photographer's Note

Invercargill-based sculptor Johnny Penisula is reputed to be the first contemporary Pacific artist to exhibit as a painter in New Zealand and remains as one of New Zealand’s few rock art specialists.

Johnny’s natural talent and desire to become an artist began as a child in Samoa and traveled with him when he migrated to New Zealand in the early sixties. Studying art at night classes, Johnny began exhibiting successfully as a painter in 1972. During the 1980s he experimented with a diverse range of sculptural materials including steel, aluminium, fibreglass, bone, argillite, greenstone, limestone, and discovered a passion for working in stone.

He states, “Stone is my favourite medium. It’s so hard, you have to be hard with it to make it do what you want it to. It’s by far the most challenging.”

Attracted to the challenge, permanence and ancient tradition of stonework, Johnny is well respected for his vast knowledge and ability to work most rock types. His current favourite is Gabro stone, which is plentiful in Southland but easily mistaken for granite. Whatever medium he chooses Johnny’s talent reveals a mastery of form, achieving delicate open cutwork and detailing on ornamental, pendant and jewellery size pieces of obsidian and jade, to smoothly surfaced full scale monoliths.

Inspired by oral tradition and story telling, Johnny seeks to provide future generations with a tangible, inspirational record of the past, a visual record of “where we have come from, to where we are now”. His sculptures incorporate both traditional Polynesian and contemporary patterns, symbols that convey our historical pathways as well as life in Aotearoa today.

In recognition of his excellence and ongoing contribution to the arts, Johnny received the Creative New Zealand 2002 Senior Pacific Arts Award. He was the Cook Island Artist in Residence in 2005 and the 2007 recipient of the Macmillan Brown Pacific Artist in Residence. His work is held in public and private collections in New Zealand and around the world, including a civic work in Invercargill’s Wagner Place, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi. Johnny continues to work on long-term projects, commissions, workshops and exhibitions including Le Folauga at the Auckland Museum in 2007.

This is one of his masterpiece - Lady Octopus which is found in Queen's Park Invercargill.

It is quite a challenge to take the shot of this sculpture without including the description plate.

Hope this does not violate TE's policy.

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Additional Photos by Ralf Lai (kim_gwan) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 99 W: 0 N: 368] (1142)
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