The first artist-in-residence to create an installation for Artspace Mackay’s wall space, known simply as The Wall, Samuel Tupou’s mural-style Repro Man / The Collective Fizz (2017) has extended his practice into large scale. Made over a two-week residency, a super-sized, stylised male head floats on the wall, rendered in pixilated triangles of blue, red, black, grey and white. It is dramatic viewing given its dynamic construction and significant scale. While it may be read as an abstracted image up close, from a distance and in reproduction, it resolves into a street-smart face.
He has also explored the global reach of technology and its avalanche of imagery, drawing together remnants from popular culture, “looking at how imagery and patterns from our past can morph and adapt, taking on new meaning”. He was drawn to using this retro-technology/aesthetic, as a rejection of the high-definition, information overload and immediacy-focussed world that we live in today. These elements coalesce in work that uses the optical qualities of the bitmap and, as visitors may experience, the lens of a phone makes for a significantly different aesthetic for Repro Man.
Tupou originally began working with tapa cloth patterns, fabrics that narrate their origins with a distinctive aesthetic. Repro Man starts with a Pacific Island tapa cloth design, but is developed using super-sized pixels, which are discrete but have integral visual relationships with neighbouring pixels and the broader pattern. As such they echo the experience of humans as individuals and part of a collective. He said, “This installation ponders the empowerment of the individual within our society through the popularisation of communication technologies and social media.
Each colour segment represents the individual as an oversized pixel, connecting with neighbouring pixels to form a repeating pattern.”