Moving seamlessly between ASCII and Samoan tattoo, the artist has invented a beautiful new language, writes Lana Lopesi.
Multidisciplinary artist Vaimaila Urale is perhaps best known for her work within D.A.N.C.E Art Club, a four-piece collective who use the “social dynamic as a creative platform”. In other words, they know how to make communities feel comfortable in galleries through DJ sets, food and parties. However, for 10 years, Urale has also been building her solo career, exhibiting in cities across Aotearoa and abroad including Sydney, San Francisco, Glasgow, and in China. Urale seamlessly moves between two different types of language, that of Samoan tattoo and ASCII, the American Standard Code for Information Interchange. She first used this unlikely combination in 2011 during the creation of ‘Typeface’, a collaboration with Johann Nortje. ASCII was originally used for sending and receiving messages to teletypes at a time when computers only understood numbers. Urale restricts herself to the / \ > and < functions of the keyboard, producing delightful geometric configurations that mirror the marks made through Samoan tattoo. The artist’s new language is displayed within a vast spectrum. Sculptures in clay with a black glaze and ASCII markings impressed in gold are contrasted by large-scale paintings on unstretched canvas with emboldened colours. Urale’s astute juxtaposition between a traditional Polynesian visual language and contemporary mark-making is sophisticated and vivid, a welcome stir up to Aotearoa’s current art offerings.
1. U’u Lima (2017). 2. ‘Poutasi’ (2017). 3. ‘Lepo’ (2017). 1