From the Collection: Telly Tuita

Telly Tuita, ‘The New Arrival of the Old King III’, 2001 (detail scan from 35mm negative), C-type handprint on Kodak premier semi matte N surface, 128 x 122 cm, reprinted by Sandy Barnard, 2023. Courtesy the artist.

Exhibition Dates: 13 April – 22 June 2024

Following the artist’s first major solo exhibition in Australia, ‘Tongpop’s Great Expectations’ presented at Campbelltown Arts Centre (3 January – 28 March 2024), C-A-C is proud to present a selection of works by Telly Tuita from the Campbelltown City Council Art Collection.

At the centre of the exhibition is the new acquisition ‘Telly at 21’ (2001), a series of the artist’s earliest performative self-portraits in which Tuita photographs himself trying on different costumes and representing different personas. ‘The New Arrival of the Old King I-III’ (2001) and ‘The wrong thought?’ (2002) also present Tuita’s obsession during his early practice with dressing up and capturing himself before the camera as a means of looking at his own life story and identity.

Alongside these Collection works is ’Showmanship of the Famili’ (2023), a collaborative commission by Little Orange Studio artist Richard J Bell and Tuita. Through conversations about their lives, Bell and Tuita found commonalities of experience. Amongst this collection of self-portraits, Bell and Tuita’s collaborative commission looks at the journey of the individual through the story of their own lives. Bell’s works address the transition from mental illness to wellness and resilience, while Tuita’s practice problematises the roles that one is expected to play within society and the harshness of that reality.

Telly Tuita

Telly Tuita was born in Tonga (1980) and grew up in Minto from the age of nine. During the early 2000s while commencing his artistic career, Tuita was deeply involved at Campbelltown Arts Centre working as a front of house staff member, gallery installer and workshop facilitator.

Tuita’s childhood memories in Tonga are a driving force in his artistic practice and are at the heart of his powerful performative self-portraits. Tongpop is a term coined by Tuita to describe his visual language. It celebrates Tuita’s rich relationship with his ancestral home of Tonga and his lived experiences in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand.

Richard J Bell

Richard J Bell calls himself a contemporary creative soul and multiform artist, who delves into genres including creative memoirs, contemporary poetry, lived experience opinion pieces, sculpture, photography and kupesi drawings. He started off writing about his lived experience of schizophrenia with the hopes that others who have similar experiences will read and relate to it on an emotional level. Currently transitioning from illness to wellness, rather than fighting the hurt, pain and injustice, Bell works on exploring his own culture and heritage through different Polynesian kupesi designs superimposed over original photos of Tonga. In response to conversations with Tuita who was in residency at C-A-C during 2023, Bell wrote ‘Showmanship of the Famili’.