By Prerna Priyanka
Self-taught artist, Jeke Viwalu Lagi’s new show Variant at the Gallery of Oceanian Art in Suva shows off his abstract expressionism in a new way, through the use of woodwork and paint.
The exhibition at the University of the South Pacific’s Laucala campus, is a captivating display of Lagi’s distinct woodwork creations that blend intricate craftsmanship with thought-provoking themes.
In an interview with Fiji Traveller, Lagi described how he has been honing his craft since a young age, revealing that his journey into the world of art was inspired by necessity and ingenuity.
“I used to fiddle around with copper wires and stuff because we didn’t have much money. So, I made my own toys out of copper wire,” shared the artist.
“I even used to make plasticine sculptures of Robinson Crusoe and started painting as well; it was a tiny pastime of mine that really took off in high school. I consider drawing to be a member of my family. My brothers and cousins were always drawing, whether it be comic book characters or cityscapes.”
The exhibition’s name, Variant, is a reflection of the artist’s desire to break free from the ordinary and embrace diversity.
The title also aptly captures the diverse and captivating nature of the pieces on display, each a unique expression of the artist’s vision.
“I’ve been to galleries around the world, and I’ve seen a variety of works. I wanted to bring that same sense of variety to my exhibition,” said Lagi.
In the case of the work displayed at Variant, Lagi says each work seemed to choose him, rather than the other way around.
“Most of the pieces here, I never went out for them. They came to me,” the artist said, highlighting the intuitive and almost symbiotic relationship he shares with the wood he works with.
One particularly moving piece, Leaving the Nest, encapsulates the emotional depth that the artist infuses into his creations. Originally intended as a family portrait, the piece evolved into a representation of the artist’s personal journey of growth and separation from his comfort zone.
“It’s basically about leaving behind the comforts of home, not just physically, but emotionally,” the artist elaborated.
Jeke’s work also touches on cultural narratives and societal influence as he strives to inspire younger generations by presenting an alternative path to success through artistic expression.
“I want to show them that this is another way of earning money. So, I try and influence them positively by saying something different.”
Variant is a testament to the artist’s evolving creative journey and his dedication to pushing boundaries within the realm of woodwork art.
As the artist’s journey continues to unfold, visitors to Variant can expect to be captivated by the intricate details, emotional resonance, and powerful narratives that are masterfully carved into each wooden piece.
Variant is on until September 1.