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From Port Moresby to Auckland

October 15, 2009


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It's a long way from Port Moresby to cosmopolitan Auckland.

But for Papua New Guinean artist, Jeffrey Feeger, the move to New Zealand is creatively stimulating ...and a chance to add a Melanesian flavour to Auckland's very Polynesian art scene.

Clement Paligaru: The hustle and bustle of Auckland could overwhelm a first time visitor.

But it's a chance of a lifetime for Papua New Guinea artist Jeffery Feeger who's won a 6 week residency in New Zealand.

Jeffry Feeger, artist: It's an opportunity for me to extend my horizons, to extend my thoughts - the way I think of the world. And that, as an artist, is important if you want to be seen in a global context.

Clement Paligaru: The residency is hosted by the Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust and the Pacific Co-operation Foundation. It aims to allow a Pacific artist immersion in Auckland's art scene.

Christina Jeffery, Tautai Contemporary Pacific Arts Trust: To enable them to network, to see other artists work, to have time to talk to them about art and to look at, obviously. to look at galleries.

Jeffry Feeger: This is a gallery not too far from where I'm staying.

Clement Paligaru: One of your hangouts.

Jeffry Feeger: This is a work by Lucas Jones. It's the kind of work that I haven't come across.
People just sketch what's on their mind. It's a response to something, it's an immediate response.

Clement Paligaru: So describe, what's the difference between what you see here and what's at home?

Jeffry Feeger: Work here is expressive, there's an expressive freedom. There's text in the artwork, in the paintings. There's written text, there's poetry. Back at home, everything's almost contrived. We work into pattern and, you know, strict control of the brush. So that comes across in the naive style. And in all of us, I guess, is that idea of making things look neat and perfect.

Clement Paligaru: But Jeffery doesn't paint for Papua New Guinea's mass market, focussing on portraiture instead.

Jeffry Feeger: And the great thing is in Papua New Guinea this hasn't been done before, it hasn't been explored. Portraits of ordinary people have been my main subjects and that has not been done of Melanesian people. I always mix a lot of colours to achieve skin tone. It a burnt sienna and it's a cool blue, mixed together to achieve the Melanesian skin.

Christina Jeffery: I think we've been very fortunate with Jeffery being the first artist in residence. He's very talented, he has a wide range of skills and his work could go in any direction really.

Jeffry Feeger: This work is basically a response to my time here. It's been fast, furious, combustion, of just fire like that. Because it's been instant - a lot of information, a lot of stimulus has gone through me. And so I thought I'd use bright colours and just put it out there on the canvas.

Living here, staying here, just on the outskirts of the city centre, and having a great view - I've incorporated the tower, and a bit of the colour of the city lights, people with their arms stretched. It's about freedom of expression, and being here, and having people understand and appreciate me, as an artist has been a revelation. It's been amazing. It's been like the chains have been broken.

Clement Paligaru: But Papua New Guinea remains his main inspiration.

Jeffry Feeger: That's something that every Papua New Guinean who leaves home carries with them, is that history, that belonging, the connection to their culture.

Clement Paligaru: Is it hard being away from home?

Jeffry Feeger: Yes, but fortunately it's not for too long.

Clement Paligaru: He left behind his wife and three year old son.

Fiona Feeger, Jeffry's wife: Both Axel and I miss him very much. Axel's following in his dad's footsteps - he's always wanting to paint with his Dad.

Jeffry Feeger: Well ever since he could hold a pen or a pencil, he's been going for it. We've also worked together on a few pieces. You know he's free, he's carefree. He just scribbles around the page and gives me really good compositions that I sometimes work off.

Clement Paligaru: While this separation may be painful, it's important for the whole family.

Fiona Feeger: I hope for the better for him and for us, for our future, we hope that whatever he's done down there can bring a much brighter future for us.

Jeffry Feeger: It feels great because everyone wants to know about Papua New Guinea and Papua New Guinean art. Some people have heard about the traditional culture but they have not heard about the contemporary scene with the artists.

Clement Paligaru: They're more likely to have heard of Jeffery Feeger now. But what future for Axel Feeger

Fiona Feeger: I should say he's a little artist now.

Jeffry Feeger: It would be great ...but I don't want to put pressure on the little guy.

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