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Graham Fletcher’s gloriously-coloured depictions of tribal artefacts displayed in modern homes are beautiful to look at – but also slightly unsettling.

“I generally choose artefacts that are more unusual,” he explains. “Objects that are strange and subtly menacing as well.”

These objects, far removed from their place of origin, seem to have lost some of their potency.

It’s an incongruity that has long fascinated Fletcher, partly because of his own Samoan-European heritage, and also because of his familiarity with the kinds of “intercultural spaces” he paints.

“They’re almost time capsules of a certain generation – the 1950s and ‘60s – on the edge of my own memory,” he says. “There the artefacts would be sitting in a lounge amongst Modernist artworks and prints, and stylish furniture. That got the ball rolling for me, and I undertook my doctoral study at Elam on the idea of Lounge-room Tribalism.”

In Fletcher’s works, there is a sense the artefacts are detached from the space in which they sit.

“It’s all about context – they no longer have the same sort of dread or influence they are appreciated with in the tribal setting, such as to ward off spirits or for ceremonial purposes,” he says. “In these new settings they’ve been de-powered; their significance is misplaced.”

His 2016 exhibition Dear Stranger at the Gow Langsford Gallery in Auckland featured twelve paintings – eight of them approximately 1500x1200mm in size – and a series of prints drawn up by Fletcher and printed by Marion Wassenaar and Kiri Mitchell at the Dunedin School of Art. The works are bright and bold with strong vertical and horizontal lines, a nod to the influence of the De Stijl movement and its co-founder Piet Mondrian. 

“The opportunities to explore this kind of cross-cultural mingling seem endless.”


Fletcher, G. (2016) Dear Stranger (solo exhibition) Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland. 28th September - 22 October, 2016.