Our new exhibition of artworks by Yuki Kihara leads me to reflect on the power of art to captivate us.

It's quite a feeling to come under the spell of a creative work – be it a song, taonga, movie, book, or a piece of visual art.

For me, I find it often begins as a simple attraction, a personal resonance with the work that grows through looking or listening.

When something is really striking, experiencing it once just isn't enough. Just as my brother rereads his favourite book series every now and then, Yuki's art draws me back repeatedly.


I know I'll be spending plenty of my free time up in the gallery with her beautiful and fascinating works over the coming months.

People around the world are similarly captivated by Yuki's art, as she exhibits across Europe, the US, Asia, Australia as well as her homeland of Sāmoa and throughout New Zealand.

The allure of her photographic artworks crosses cultural distinctions, speaking to many people regardless of their level of familiarity with fine art.

The works in our exhibition range from still photographs, projected video works, and the unusual medium of lenticular prints: which combine a multitude of photographs to give the effect of motion as the viewer moves from side to side.

Present in all the images is Yuki herself in the role of a symbolic figure named Salome.

Yuki first created and embodied the Salome character in 2002, inspired by an 1886 photograph of a Sāmoan woman wearing a Victorian mourning dress.

The name of this woman is unknown, but in bringing her back to life, Yuki gave her the name Salome.

In video works, Salome performs evocative dances, while in the photographs she is seen visiting sites of layered significance.

Her full black gown marks her as an ancestral figure, returning from the 19th century. Salome's presence creates a layer of intrigue to the work, leading us to wonder: who is this figure, always appearing alone, and why is she there?

I find that it is this element of mystery, combined with the richness of the imagery, that makes the works so captivating.

There is a wealth of meaning to be found: from the biblical and theatrical connotations of the name of Salome, to the particular histories of each place where she is seen, and more.

Yuki gave great insight into the concepts of her art during her floor talk yesterday, describing her inspirations, influences and intentions.

She also shared these in a written interview, published in a booklet that is freely available from MTG for those who would like more insight into her work.

The exhibition, titled Yuki Kihara: Te Taenga Mai o Salome, will be on display until June 2018 and entry is free to all – so if you too find yourself under the spell of these works, you'll be welcome to return as many times as you like.

• Jess Mio is art curator of the Museum Theatre Gallery (MTG) Hawke's Bay.