Monday, August 18, 2008

Taba Silau

Taba Silau, 51, now the director of the Madang Visitors Bureau in the resort town of Madang in Papua New Guinea continues to be one of the country’s leading artists.

He, however, only exhibits sporadically.

In 1975, he was awarded a scholarship to the National Arts School in Port Moresby after completing Grades 11 and 12 at Kerevat National High School outside Rabaul.

There, he organised the school’s first art club and presented his first solo exhibition in 1976.

Disliking the restrictions of school regulations, he resigned from the school in 1977, struggling for the next seven years to survive as a freelance artist until 1984, when he was appointed to the post of Madang cultural officer, working at the Madang Museum and Cultural Centre.

Here, he painted two murals that portrayed the legendary history and cultural revitalisation of the peoples of Madang Province.

Silau remained in the post until the late 1980s, when a severe illness forced him to stop working.

When he recovered, he returned to painting, exhibiting a striking collection of his work at the Papua New Guinea National Museum ad Art Gallery in 1994.

With great expressive power, Silau’s imagery focuses on two primary themes: first the legends and exploits of the traditional peoples and heroes of Madang, which are the foundation of traditional knowledge and world view; second, bitter commentary on what he calls “the confusions caused by modernisation and capitalism” instigated by colonialism.

Silau was the first Papua New Guinean artist to use the figure of the urban beggar to symbolise the breakdown of traditional social life.

Similarly, his bleak images of Irian Jaya criticise the national government for foreign policies that he believes abandons ancient ties to “Melanesian brothers” facing genocide in Indonesia.

These paintings and their associated poems thus symbolise wider political issues that engage the problem of what values are central to the core constructs of Melanesian cultural identity.

In his quest to motivate Papua New Guineans to think about what is happening to their culture, Silau does not shirk the role of social critic.

In his early painting Silau employed a somber palette, ranging from traditional earth tones to bitter citric yellow.

Moreover, the faces of his figures have exaggerated features with brooding staring eyes.

However, there can also be a lyrical pathos, even sweetness, to images depicting traditional subjects.

Recently, Silau’s paintings suggest that his colours are also brighter and that a once-heavy paint texture has lightened to suggest a new transparency of form.

No comments:

Post a Comment