By EREBIRI ZURENUOC
I DIDN’T know much about art until last Friday, April 26.
Thanks to Maine Winny of Lae City Tourism Bureau, I was introduced to few of the best ‘underground’ artists in the city.
It was the opening of an art studio and private art gallery of a local painter.
Arison Kul lived through his imagination, mixing different paint colours to bring about paintings that contain thousands of messages.
Messages of hardships and struggles, political issues, social issues, natural beauty and many more. It was the first time that Maine Winny and I set foot inside a home-based private art gallery and studio.
The studio is located at Malibu Estate, Limki, along Speedway in Lae.
No one would expect to see a well-designed art studio located in a settlement. But that is also the true spirit of art; no matter where you display it, it will still leave you in admiration.
Kul is from Tirokave village in Kainantu District, Eastern Highlands. A very simple man, he started painting since 2003.
Like many other painters, feeding that passion everyday will make you become better in the future, and that was what Kul did.
He is self-taught, and spent most of his time looking through art books he picked up from the second-hand shops around Lae. He also studied how other artists used their paint. He painted, and painted, til he could master his art.
With no background in art, he was still supported by his family to create his own dream.
His dream to establish a private studio came after being inspired by Renbo Studio at Rainbow suburb in Port Moresby.
“My idea was basically to paint more, and allow people, art lovers or collectors to come to my place to choose, instead of me carrying paintings around, looking for an area to sell.
“It is for artists to unite and share ideas to create more paintings,” Kul said.
He was inspired by many Papua New Guinean painters, whom he said, were all not given the prominence they deserved. Some died without recognition, others are not seen as artists.
During the opening of the Akul Art Studio” he invited some of them. They were Khais Itau, Johnson Agua, Archie Towo, John Taia, and another upcoming painter Kinani Aru.
Arison’s big brother, Pastor Willie Kul gave a clear message during the shot gospel sharing.
“God is the first artist, He thought of whatever he wants to create, before He did it. And that is the same with painters, they mix colours until they create something, and that is something not many people can do,” he said.
“Art is special and is a gift from God, people who use this gift are very special,” the pastor said.
Arison Kul, who was quite tearful during the opening, said art was a big thing for PNG.
“For artists in PNG, nobody cares about us, yet our paintings are hanging somewhere in houses overseas.
“People need money to survive each day, and those who can paint, will understand the struggles of selling a painting.
“Sometimes artists will be pressured by their daily survival. How can I make money to buy this or that?
“For me, once I hold the paint brush, all my pressure is gone,” he said.
Kul had some of his paintings bought already by foreigners, especially a professor from Russia. He also had some of his paintings exhibited in Port Moresby.
The work of other painters and artists has always been his inspiration and motivation to paint more.
“Art is what comes from the heart – heart to art,” he emphasised.
“If you want to paint something that is unique, do it from the heart.”
Kul has done collaborations with other artists as well.
“The whole idea about collaboration is to get to know each other, share ideas and we create something. With painters, when they get together, they can create something very new.”
Johnson Agua from Kerowagi in Chimbu, who has done a lot of paintings for shops in Lae, and usually sells his paintings along 4th Street, said artists were people who brought out what was hidden, through their paintings.
“There are stories behind every painting, and the message will bring peace of mind to people who see them.”
John Taia, a forester and self-taught artist asked what must be for local artists the most important question; how can we showcase and promote PNG abroad?
“It is through art, necklaces, bilum, paintings, carvings and many more items that foreigners buy and take back home.
“Artists are important people that make this happen, and they must be supported by the National Government.”
He said many politicians did not know what art could do and that was why artists were always being left out.
“People who visit PNG will always take with them a piece of art, and that is how artists are important in promoting PNG.”
Winny said artists like Kul needed to be exposed and small initiatives like art studios and galleries must be supported.
“Art in tourism is special, because only the artist knows how to express his/her story.
“A gallery is a special place for artists, and it will help them do their job well. We will try our best to do whatever we can to support artists like this.”
One of the concerns of the artists highlighted by Kul was the use of photography and computers to capture and edit moments.
He said these were challenges that determined the fate of the work of painters/artists, and that was where artists must master their skills of choosing colours, and be given prominence.
“People are attracted to the work of painters, by how they use colours.”
The Akul Art Studio and gallery is simple, small, but signals a big message about the work of painters.
The private studio is the first in Lae, Morobe. Kul has created a dream that most artists in Lae, whether painters, bilum makers, carvers and others have had for some time.
They are struggling to sell their art and craft, and Kul’s initiative brings hope, to have a special place where artists can sell their products.
For Kul, it is true that whatever you do from the heart will not die.