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The East African : Feb 4rth 2017
VIII MAGAZINE ART CONTEMPORARY Hawaiian art gets its moment in the sun Few aficionados and collectors would rank Hawaii among the world’s top destinations for contemporary art, but young local and foreign artists are making the islands an increasingly relevant hub. Hawaiian artists who moved to the mainland after the 2008 economic crisis are returning, while the scene is inspiring artists from across the continental US and Asia to produce works for a mostly undiscovered market. Oahu is hosting two biennials and an international art fair this year. Artists of Hawaii 2017, a biennial now in its 62nd year, will be held at the Honolulu Museum of Art from February 9 to May 28. It will be joined by the inaugural Honolulu Biennial, from March 8 to May 8, and Art Hawaii International, the first international art fair on the island, from November 2 to 5, with 85 galleries scheduled to participate. The Honolulu Biennial is hoping to position Hawaii as “a vibrant and important centre within the international biennial circuit,” said Katherine Tuider, one of its founders. One of the more dynamic coming events is “POW! WOW! Hawaii,” with its hopeful reference to the art’s impact on viewers. The event has been held in downtown Honolulu every year since 2011. For a week starting from February 11, artists from around the world will cover warehouses with murals in the city’s commercial district of Kakaako. The new wave of artists who are exhibiting in Hawaii often see their work through the prism of its natural resources or traditional crafts. One of the finest examples of classical Polynesian sculptures and textiles on the islands was assembled by Laurance S. Rockefeller, for his Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on the Big Island, in the 1960s. The weekly tour of the thousands of objects in its open galleries overlooking the ocean provides visitors with a well-rounded view of the region’s most significant crafts. Neida Bangerter, the gallery director of the Maui Arts and Cultural Center, said her art space has shifted people’s perceptions of what art can do because artists there take risks. Until March 19, the centre is exhibiting human-scale tunnels made of pure silk threads by Japanese master weaver and zero-waste advocate Akihito Izukura. East Hawaii Cultural Center, in Hilo on the Big Island, has been engaging local artists in exploring themes such as homelessness and Hawaii’s sacred sites, in a variety of media. - New York Times The EastAfrican FEBRUARY 4ò10,2017 GALLERIES: A legend in the regional arts world is showing more than 60 pieces — paintings, drawings and even a decorated sofa —that span her career… yet they raise the question, just why is their quality so variable? ACCIDENTS DO HAPPEN õ BUT NOT THIS OFTEN Frank Whalley, Special Correspondent A ccidents do happen but if they have been controlled, are they still accidents? It is an intriguing question and one raised by a current exhibition of some 60 paintings, drawings and even an old sofa. Called Controlled Accidents, it spans the long career of our own Yony Waite. “Our own” gives the game away. For Waite is a much-loved part of the East African arts scene. Was she not one of the founders of the famed Watatu Gallery in Nairobi city centre? She was. Did she not wear a suit made for her by Sane Wadu from old canvases? She did. And are not her paintings and drawings decorating the rooms of such renowned hotels as the Hilton in Nairobi and the Serena Beach on Mombasa North Coast? They are. An institution then; an artist who came to Kenya from Guam and Japan in 1960, decided to stay and made the place her own. Waite is also respected as a tireless arts supporter and environmental activitist as well as for her work with women’s collectives, the force behind a series of campaigning tapestries and banners. But it is her paintings and drawings that feature in the current exhibition at the Polka Dot gallery in Karen, until February 15. And in these, the quality is surprisingly variable. The catalogue quotes Waite’s maxim, “In art there are no mistakes, only results you didn’t expect.” This smacks rather of getting your excuses in first, and to my mind it is exactly the sort of hippy mantra that has been used to try to justify weak art since the heady days of flower power and a joint in the street. There are mistakes aplenty in art and they can be seen in many a gallery and on countless walls — bad drawing, inaccurate anatomy, contradictory lighting, poor composition, shaky structure, tortured paint, flaccid brushwork... the list goes on. To turn back to Waite’s work, the puzzle is why an artist who can be so good can also fall victim to such a lack of coherence. Knowing Waite, who is as committed as anyone I can think of, I doubt if this is due to laziness, a lack of attention, or work rushed to meet a deadline. I suspect the answer lies in her wide- range of interests and frequent switches of media. Some artists are superb draughtsmen but sloppy painters; others have an instinct for paint but lack the discipline for drawing. Yet others relish the technical challenges of print making but recoil at A mural by Cory Taum in downtown Honolulu. Pic: NYT the thought of a day at the easel. At Polka Dot, Waite shows acrylics mixed with oil on canvas, watercolours, pen and ink drawings, monochrome ink and watercolour washes and even that decorated sofa, humped into the compound outside the gallery. It would be rare to find an artist who is a dab hand at all of this. I think she spreads herself too thinly. At her best, as in her watercolour of pine tree branches, she is irresistible; direct and precise in line, form and colour. You can almost smell the sprigs’ sharp scent. There is also a group of landscapes of Mexico (which look astonishingly like the Scottish Highlands) that project the subtle play of light on form and again are beautifully structured. Study of Pines, and below, from L’Amour Lamu, by Yony Waite. Pictures: Frank Whalley and Lara Ray Attractive too are wash drawings and ink sketches under the general heading of L’Amour Lamu; incisive, economical and with their strong chiaroscuro echoing the violent sunlight of that island. But then there is a charcoal drawing of a seated figure that seems completely boneless, a sheet of ink sketches of cats that lack their essential vitality, and several large oil and acrylics on canvas of woodlands, wildlife and Lamu interiors that struck me as both greasy and limp. With Waite’s paintings, the setting can count for much. Her show about forests, curated at the National Museum in Nairobi in January 2015, showed how the surroundings can make all the difference. The windows were covered, the lighting subdued and the walls were painted woodland green, complementing Waite’s variations on the theme of trees. An excellent exhibition presented homogenously and a great success. Waite’s works, then, benefit from a sympathetic environment where her inventiveness and daring compositions can be seen at their best. The stark white walls of the Polka Dot mean paintings and drawings have to stand up for themselves. In spite of professional framing, clear labelling and a sensitive hang, the work has to be seen and be counted, stripped of its metaphorical soft filters and Vaseline smears on the lens. It is a cruel but sure test and not one that all can survive. Here there are too many accidents. Uncontrolled.
Jan 28th 2017
Feb 11th 2017