Irami Buli is a Fijian artist who first began drawing in 1990 as a 13 year old. He drew inspiration from comic art and worked with charcoals. Now a days Irami paints and writes and has danced and played instruments for the Oceania Dance Theater and Vou.
His first break came in 2000 when he attended a workshop run by the Red Wave Collective, at the Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture (now called Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture and Pacific Studies) at The University of the South Pacific. After a decade with Red Wave and exhibiting with the collective, Irami now has his own studio space in Suva.
He has collaborated with artists from New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Australia and has exhibited in Fiji, French Polynesia, India, Indonesia, United States, Australia, and New Zealand. In 2008 Irami spent three months working with local artists in Bali under an Indonesian Government sponsorship.
He has received numerous awards – in 2006 he represented Fiji at the World Inter-Continent Arts Initiative in India and won the First Prize in the Public Choice Awards at the Ashoka Gallery in New Delhi. That year he also received a Highly Commended Art award and Okanui Cultural Art Awards at the National Fine Art Expo in Fiji and in 2008 received the Indigenous Art Awards and the Highly Commended Work at the Fiji National Fine Arts Exhibition.
The Fish That Caught My Eyes | Irami Buli | Oil on Canvas | 2008
This painting is about a man who wanted to desperately marry a beautiful young woman but could not do so. He tried hard to attract her attention for a long time but the young lady just ignored him and went about with her work in the village. One day the man went out to sea to fish. He sat in his little boat for a long time waiting for the line to catch. There was nothing but the dark blue water. He started to paddle back to the lagoon and as he came closer he stopped and the moment was there. He saw this one little tiny beautiful fish swimming up to him.
I talanoa with Irami about his work.
Tell us a little about your background – what path has led you to what you are doing now?
I come from an artistic background where my grandfather who is also my namesake, was a composer and a songwriter. But when it comes to my generation I was even fortunate to become a successful artist, performer, chant writer and a poet. It was art that led me to what I am today.
What challenges have you faced, and what advice would you have for Pacific artists hoping to find representation and exhibit their work?
There were so many challenges I faced in regards to art and the need for recognition. The advise that I would have for Pacific artist is to try give and take what creativity exchange can offer, with other artists and build networks around you utilizing all kinds of resources available to get your art to the world.
Where do you turn for creative inspiration when beginning a new piece?
Motifs speaks of different meanings, an ethnic code of patterns. I use these term a lot when approaching a new design in new ideas, and depends on the materials used, for specific designs.
Do other art forms or artists in different disciplines inspire or have influenced you and how?
I believe that there is none. No one inspired or influenced me but the fact that I believe is when you inspire others, you are inspiring yourself with the ability to be new, authentic, genuine and raw.
The Internet has seemingly made the world a more democratic space in which artists, writers and musicians can more easily share their work with the world. How do you think the Internet has created possibilities for Pacific artists?
Opportunities is all about this. We Pacific artists mostly are discourage to access these materials for marketing, research, and recognition. With the influence of internet it has created a bridge to the world of art and we find now that most Pacific artists are being recognized this way.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently a freelance artist but always associate myself with arts organizations and institution. Also preparing for my 7th solo exhibition here in Fiji.
What would be your dream creative project or collaboration?
My dream project would be touring around the world sharing and collaboration with artists from all sorts of life and learn about their culture, language and art.
What are you looking forward to?
I am looking forward in accomplishing a trademark fro my work globally, things written about my style of work, my artistic life and art career and building the capacity in developing the arts in my community and my country. Furthermore to be a very successful artist in the Pacific region.
Irami Buli with guests at the opening of Pacific Storms at Logan Art Gallery, 20 May 2011. Image via Pacific Storms
Winds of Change II | Irami Buli | Oil on Canvas | 2011.
Vinaka Irami. All the best in your up coming solo exhibition in Fiji.
Irami’s work, including Winds of Change II, can be seen at the Pacific Storms exhibition at Logan Art Gallery until 25 June, 2011. For more information about Pacific Storms, see my earlier post here.
Logan Art Gallery
Cnr Wembley Road and Jacaranda Ave,
Logan Central, Queensland, Australia
Phone: (07) 3412 5519 • Fax: (07) 3412 5350 • Email: email@example.com • Website: http://www.logan.qld.gov.au/artgallery
Opening hours: 10:00am to 5:00pm Tuesday to Saturday
Interview conducted via email on 25 March and 18 May, 2011. All images courtesy of the artists unless otherwise stated.