With her characteristically expressive style of painting Lily Aitui Laita has achieved widespread success and recognition.
Lily completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Elam School of Fine Art, The University of Auckland in 1990. She later returned to complete her Masters of Fine Art in 2002. Lily of Ngati Raukawa and Samoan descent has had an extensive exhibiting career nationally and throughout Australasia and the Pacific. Since establishing herself as an artist Lily has also established a career art educator. Her abstracted subjects explore an ambiguous sense of space and time, communicating the interactions between dreams, Pacific mythology, journeys and notions of intuitive and learned knowledge.
Lily's paintings often express personal narratives, which attempt to address the various ways that cultures communicate and record knowledge and how art can become a vehicle for discussion and discourse. The inclusion of Samoan, Maori and English text invests her paintings with another dimension of understanding and 'reading the narratives', highlighting the significance of Polynesian mythology and oratory traditions. The figurative forms are layered and abstracted, the words function as clues, often encompassing multiple readings. Figures and faces surface from the landscape after careful observation referencing the way traditional knowledge is not always given in full but rather revealed over time. From 2002, the use of text as a form is painted backwards referring to the first written known Samoan texts in English, although it also reinforces the artist's inference to the ethereal 'va' of the picture plane.
One work that brings together Maori, Pakeha and Pacific on a single plane in Pari'aka'. This triptych is in three parts, her father on the left, mother on the right and herself in the middle representing the connectedness of the Parihaka in New Zealand and the Mau movement in Samoa. This connectedness comes from when Tamasese (one of the leaders from the Mau independence movement) was exiled and sent to Mt Eden prison, people from the community of Parihaka went and supported him with gifts. Both movements were similar, they were both struggles for independence and demonstrations of peaceful resistence. The indepth layering of metaphors and text has become symbolic of Lily's work.
Lily has had a prolific exhibiting career spanning over 25 years.