Cerisse Palalagi

Fresh Pattern x
Print Community Revival

Collaborative Interview by
Melanie Yazzie and John Hitchcock

Yazzie: When did you begin printmaking and why is this medium important to you?

I started experimenting with printmaking when I was at high school. My art teacher showed me how to make a reduction woodcut, then other techniques such as monoprint and etching. I always ended up going back to woodcut prints because I liked the graphic quality, the bold contrasting lines and that juicy black ink.

I enjoy the element of serendipity. Even though you plan your print out, you never really know how your print will actually look until you've inked up your block/ plate/ stone and put that sucker through the press. I still get goose bumps every single time I see the result.

I have recently completed a lithography print residency at the Auckland Print Studio set up by Mr. John Pusateri. The Auckland Print Studio specializes in stone lithography,
 producing fine-art and architectural prints in limited editions. This really has been a dream come true for me as I have never made an edition of lithography prints before. I'm amazed at the consistency of each work that gets printed from the litho stone, the quality is outstanding and magical.

Hitchcock: In your prints you use pattern and portraits. Can you talk about the relationship between the patterns and people in your artworks?

The patterns I use are a reflection of my identity. I like the juxtaposition of the cultural symbols and people combined in my portraits. They are usually of people in my family, including myself. I design all of the patterns myself, as the Niuean culture does not have a strong recorded history of patterns. This is my way of reviving the culture, and showing people that our culture and language is not dead.

Hitchcock: Tell us about the Maori Printmakers Collective Toi Whakataa Press and the challenges of running a print press.

Toi Whakataa Press is an initiative set up by fabulous NZ printmakers Vanessa Edwards & Ruth Green Cole. One of the objectives I admire is to be aware of our roles as Maori printmakers/ Maori artists and to continually challenge and discuss what that means in a variety of contexts.

Toi Whakataa Press was established in January of 2006, and emerged from a need to identify printmaking as a valid means of Maori artistic expression. As a result, this Maori Printmakers Collective acts as a basic network for those involved.
I joined up in 2008, as I was invited with a few other artists at the time.
In the past when we worked on projects, we tend to do it all through email, since we all live in different parts of the country.
My printmaking process hasn’t really changed since joining. I have noticed that my imagery and symbols tend to lean more towards Maori iconography and influences from ancestral carvings. I feel comfortable with putting my own sway on these things and changing them around bringing them into the contemporary world ...(example of carving of & my image of b' boy taniwha or new print).
Since our collective is still relatively new, we are still building the group up. Most of us are young parents, doing the balancing act juggling work, student life, parenthood and our creative life.

Yazzie: How did you think of Inkteraction and why did you set it up?
I was already spending a lot of time on other social networking sites like Bebo, Facebook and MySpace..searching for other printmakers around the world. I'd spend hours on the networking sites’ search engine with keywords like :lithography, serigraphy, woodcut etc., with not much luck. I guess I was hoping to find other printmaking fanatics like myself that might participate in print portfolios on a yearly basis.

I got invited by a Tutor of mine to join a social networking site called indigenous, as I was looking around the site I discovered that it was a D.I.Y networking site. From here, I decided to see what would happen if I started Inkteraction not really expecting much from it. Next thing you know, we have just under 5,ooo members from all corners of the earth.
Being involved with Melanie Yazzie in print portfolios, I loved how this gathered printmakers together from around the world. I often open my portfolios of prints and spend time admiring all the hard work that printmakers put in to each and every print. This was one of the main motivating factors in starting Inkteraction, so we can all constantly share with each other photos of new works, events, residencies etc. The list goes on.

Yazzie: What issues that are important to you? How can we learn more about who you are?

Issues in my work which are very important include language revival, living in the city & maintaining connections to your ancestral homeland, family, identity, change, and the cyclical nature of seasons and life and Celebration of Matariki - the Maori New Year (Mid June-July).

Im finding that the more prints I create, the more I discover about my own needs and desires culturally & aesthetically. I am currently working on a body of new works for a special show coming up in June of this year.

Entitled Motunei, this is my first exhibition at such a nationally recognised establishment. I have been a bit on edge lately because its such a huge deal for me, which is a good thing because its pushing me in terms of ideas and scale of works. The size of the printed mixed media works will range in size from 1400mm x 2000mm to 750mm x 500mm. I usually work on a much smaller scale, around 297mm x 420mm.

Motunei: Cerisse Palalagi
Deane Gallery
18 June – 12 September 2010

'Motunei'. In Niuean language it means, 'from this land'. I am part Maori and part Niuean, this is more of a comment on me having blood ties with both Tangata whenua( Indigenous to New Zealand) and Pacific Islander, Niuean ancestry.

Customary practices and contemporary methodologies; this is the pivotal statement in a new series of art works by Cerisse Palalagi. Of both Niuean and Māori (Ngāti Pikiao) descent Palalagi refers to the customary art making practices of her Polynesian forebears as a form of coding which relayed information about the natural and social environment of her ancestors. Following this ideology she poses the proposition that in the age of fibre-optic telecommunications, cell phones and social networking sites that ‘text’ language is now a valid contemporary form of coding. A code which she says “is increasingly becoming the choice of a new generation”. Utilising the distinctive and beautiful painted traditions of Niuean hiapo bark cloth art Palalagi provides a voice for the ‘Bebo’ and ‘Facebook’ generation, and in particular explores how young pacific people have embraced this coding in order to communicate with their friends and family all over the pacific.

'Motunei' will take place at The City Gallery Wellington, Wellington being the capital of N.Z.

As a contributing member of GrapevineInk, what do you want to see come out of the collective? How can we build a strong international network?

We can build a strong network by having regular contact with each other through artist exchanges, residencies, and print portfolios. Maybe even using Skype and MSN chat for direct communication.
The U.S has such a strong following within the world of printmaking and I envy this a lot. I really want to help be a part of a collective that can push print to the foreground of the arts realm here in Aotearoa ,New Zealand. I have much to gain from GrapevineInk and all members involved, inspiring!