Self-representation and cultural references in the work of Telly Tuita

Telly Tuita’s solo exhibition signifies a full-circle moment.
Installation view of ‘Telly Tuita: Tongpop’s Great Expectations’ at Campbelltown Arts Centre. Photo: Jodie Barker. Installation and photography works inside a spacious gallery with sky blue walls.

There are no photographs of artist Telly Tuita before the age of nine. Yet, in his exhibition Tongpop’s Great Expectations, his face beams from many corners. These include grained self-portraits, some featuring back-facing subjects from Tuita’s heyday studying at Western Sydney University, and others include truant figures – blocked out grandfathers, silhouettes taken from sketches of wayward women, pop culture outlines of Disney foes shaded in light pastel and imposed on top of passport pictures. They are all intended to be iterations of him.

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Karen Leong is a Hong Kong-born writer, journalist and critic. Drawn to reclamation and desire, her body of work operates as semiotic storytellers across art, film and fashion. Alongside her written practice, Karen works across performance and media in bridging the juncture between film and text. You can find more of her work on Vice Asia, Astrophe Magazine, Leste Magazine, and @karen.gif.