Benjamin Work is a South Auckland-based artist of Tongan (Tu’anekivale, Vava’u) and Scottish heritage. He is a core member of the international art collective, The Most Dedicated (TMD). Benjamin Work’s practice extends across a diverse range of projects, which include large scale public murals, commercial print based media, paintings, photography and performance.
Combining an ongoing investigation into the symbolic use of colour, kula (red) and `uli (black), Ngatu (bark cloth) making, Kupesi (designs and motifs), and the heliaki (semiotics) of the Povāi (ancient Tongan war clubs), his work becomes a contemporary narrative between Tongan traditions and practices, and the spiritual and social significance these have for Tongans within the modern Pacific diaspora. Works current body of painting focuses on the sacred Polynesian voyaging practice of Motutapu. He states, ‘The idea behind this new series of work was triggered by the previous, where I was exploring names and places that paralleled my own experiences with land. Motutapu (Sacred Island) throughout Polynesia was a place of sanctuary from internal wars or a place for negotiations, a middle ground, a place for rejuvenation as well as a place to launch new journeys.’
Benjamin has exhibited in Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, North America, Rarotonga and Tonga where he travels frequently. Work has exhibited in a number of group and solo exhibitions including: Post-Graffiti Pacific, AMBUSH Gallery, Sydney; Toutouta, Olivia Laita Gallery, Auckland; I See Red I See Red I See Red, Fresh Gallery, Auckland; If These Walls Could Talk, Imperial Lane, Auckland and TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, Auckland; Louder – The Serigraph Pop-Up Exhibition, Studio 40, Auckland; Primary Flight: Art Basel, Miami, USA.
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