Visesio Poasi Siasau is a carver, painter, and fiber artist from the Pacific island Kingdom of Tonga and is one of the most significant contemporary practitioners of Tongan Art. The Mellon Indigenous Arts Initiative is pleased to welcome him as the first Visiting Fellow of 2018.
Siasau comes from a hereditary guild of Tongan "Tufunga" (or ritual practioners/artists) and is a highly accomplished carver in the traditional Tongan style, producing works for numerous royal families across the Pacific. As a contemporary artist, he has worked in glass, bronze and installation, extending the parameters of what is considered “traditional” Tongan art. More recently, he has extended his practice into the creation of large paintings on tapa cloth and canvas.
He is the first Tongan artist to be awarded the Wallace Art Prize, and in 2016 spent six months as resident artist at the International Studio and Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York. During this time, he was invited to lecture and present his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
As a Visiting Fellow at the Univeristy of Virginia, Siasau worked directly with faculty and students at the University through painting and sculpture workshops and masterclasses in art history, anthropology and other disciplines. He also reviewed the Oceanic collections of the Fralin Museum of Art, and the Aboriginal Australian collections of the Kluge-Ruhe.
On Feb. 2, 2018, Siasau presented at Oceans of Exchange: Art, Indigeneity, & the 21st Century Museum, a symposium hosted by the Mellon Indigenous Arts Initiative, Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, The Fralin Museum of Art, UVA McIntire Department of Art, and the Institute of the Humanities & Global Cultures.
Top right: Siasau (fourth from right) talks about one of his black tapa barkcloth paintings at The Met in New York City, 2016; Top left and bottom row: These images are from 'Inasi - First Fruits: The Voyage of Captain James Cook to the Kingdom of Tonga’, a 2017 exhibition in Tonga by Visesio Siasau and Serene Tay (a New Zealand artist and Siasau's wife.) In the bottom-left photo Tay and Siasau (left & center respectively) are standing with Her Excellency The New Zealand High Commissoner to Tonga Sarah Walsh. All photos courtesy of the artist.
Read more about Visesio Siasau's work: