Fatu Feu’u (born in 1946, Poutasi, Samoa) is a Senior Contemporary Pacific Artist, acknowledged as both a Leader and Mentor within the Pacific Arts community in New Zealand. Feu’u moved to Wellington, New Zealand at the age of 20. He worked through a series of jobs in the textile industry before committing himself as a full-time artist in 1988 while living in Auckland.
Feu’u’s work details his personal responses and interpretations of oral histories, myths, stories, songs, traditions and political events in and about Samoa. He is accomplished mixed-media artist – painting (oil and acrylic), sculpture and print. His palette is usually bright with distinct brushwork and often many layers of paint giving a textual appearance. Known for often using tatau and siapo designs, Feu’u creates a visual narrative of oral traditions.
Feu’u holds both an ali’i title and a tulafale (orator) title. Feu’u has the tulafale title of Si’a, bestowed by his father’s family, of the village of Poutasi, and the ali’i title of Lesa, bestowed by his mother’s family, of the village of Sa’anapu.
Feu’u spent his first years in New Zealand working in the car manufacturing industry as a colour matcher, and then in design and marketing for a company in his adopted city, Wellington. He continued with his passion for painting, and after Feu’u left Wellington for Auckland, he met acclaimed artists Tony Fomison and Phillip Clairmont.
Fomison was an important influence and encouraged Feu’u to paint the things that were important to him. Feu’u began to express his interpretation of fa’asamoa – traditional religious and cultural values of Samoa such as respect (ava), reverence (fa’aaloalo), love, concern and compassion for others (alofa).
Feu’u’s first exhibition of paintings was in 1983, at Massey Homestead in Manukau. In 1986 and 1987 he spent time with Franz Muka of Muka studio in Grey Lynn, learning the art of lithography. In 1988, he was commissioned to create a sculpture for Auckland Girls Grammar School – the first large stone sculpture he exhibited.
Whilst working consistently to create a significant body of work, Fatu has also spent a lot of time working towards a greater understanding and acknowledgement of the importance of Pacific Island art.
Fatu Feu’u has exhibited widely throughout New Zealand and has been included in significant exhibitions such as ‘Bottled Ocean’ Wellington City Gallery 1994, the Australian Contemoporary Art Fair 1998, ‘Pacific Renaissance’ 1999 at Tjibaou Cultural Centre, New Caledonia and ‘Talofa Samoa’ at the Frankfurt Art Museum, Germany in 1999.
Highlights & Awards:
- 1992 Winner of the Gordon Harris Printmaking Award
- 1995 Winner of the James Wallace Art Award
- 1996 Feu’u was made Artist-in-Residence at the MacMillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies at the University of Canterbury
- 1996 Winner of the Pacific Island Artists Award
- Feu’u was appointed an Honorary Officer of New Zealand Order of Merit in 2001
- Feu’u was part of a group Exhibition: Le Folauga – it toured to Taiwan, becoming the first exhibition of contemporary Pacific Art from New Zealand to be shown in a major fine arts museum in Asia. Le Folauga opened at the Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts in Taiwan from 13 December 2008 to 5 April 2009