Painted 2017, ‘This Square of Land…’ appears around Thomas Square (nearly one mile long), a park centrally located in Honolulu. The mural comprises of a series of free-painted hands, gesturing in American Sign Language against an indigo background.
Translated into English, the message reads:
“This square of land is a story about an Admiral who made right from wrong with compassion. Moral: righteousness cultivates pricelessness.”
This message refers to the Square’s commemoration of Admiral Thomas’ actions in 1843, when he restored the Kingdom of Hawai‘i from a foreign occupation. The restoration reflected the prevailing international position at the time, which generally acknowledged the Kingdom’s sovereignty. For Solomon Enos, the message imparts an important lesson moving forward: When we prioritize doing what’s right over what’s profitable, we produce an immeasurable, exponential sort of wealth.
That sign language is used in the mural references an impaired “voice,” and symbolically refers to the act of giving voice to the voiceless. Enos hopes that the cryptic nature of the message will also compel viewers to contemplate the mural as a form of communication and decode it for deeper layers of meaning.
The English-language translation of the mural’s statement is a tweetable 137 characters (including spaces and punctuation) in a direct nod to Twitter and a broader reference to the way in which we communicate and disseminate information today. The brevity and immediacy of social media shape and constrain messages, undermining our acquisition of knowledge. Can a tweet truly encapsulate the complexity of history and its underlying values and motivations?
The mural’s commentary encompasses the past, present, and future of Hawai‘i. The historical importance of Thomas Square (past), the reference to medium and the way we digest information (present), and the moral righteousness (future) form a continuum of knowledge around Thomas Square.
Photos by Christopher Rohrer
Solomon Enos imagines the Hawaiian wa‘a (canoe) and its intrinsic form, functions, and societies beyond our present reckoning. Created for the group exhibition Wa‘a + Lewa: Reflections on Voyaging, these futuristic wa‘a belong to the sci-fi narrative Polyfantastica, an ongoing body of work that envisions an alternative realm of Pacific cultures and spans across 40,000 years.
In the Polyfantastica narrative, Mutu expansionists use their weather-augmenting technology to power their scattered armada and to defend their newly conquered seas. The Opoata warships are living vessels that bleed and heal and eat the many corpses that are left after battle. The small but elite ‘Ianoto navy use a secretive sonic technology that calls the winds to its sails.
Beyond the Polyfantastica narrative, these futuristic wa'a point to the ongoing evolution of canoe technology and voyaging as a living tradition that will continue to bring humanity to new frontiers.
Mutu “Cloud Eater” Class Acquisition Waka, Year 731, 2017, acrylic on paper, 24” x 18”, private collection
Opoata “Bloodwall” Class Battle Waka, Year 731, 2017, acrylic on paper, 24” x 18”, private collection
‘Ianoto “Windward” Class Battle Waka, Polyfantastica, Year 731, 2017, acrylic on paper, 24” x 18”, private collection
Radical Optimist presented a collection of recent works on canvas by Solomon Enos, more than half of which were never-seen-before self-portraits and landscape paintings.
In the face of anxiety and uncertainty, Enos’ art offers an introspective and hopeful antidote to dystopian futures. As the exhibition name suggests, the common thread running through his artwork is an untethered buoyancy that has become the hallmark of his work.
For Enos, optimism is the practice of embracing everything — light and darkness, the positive and the negative. He feels hope for those who can't, and believes that “vigilant kindness and compassion are the new black.” His ethos comes through in his work, which often reflects a full spectrum of moods, dispositions, and outlooks.
Self-Portrait, Kaka'ako I, 2015, oil on canvas, 16" x "20
After the Darkness, There Is Still Darkness, 2016, oil on canvas, 48" x 48"
Sitting Nude, Chinatown, Honolulu (2016), oil on canvas, 16" x 28"
Self-Portrait, Kaka'ako II, 2015, oil on canvas, 16" x 20"
Core Sample of the Collective Human Organism, 2016, oil on panel, 30" x 30"
Installation views at The ARTS at Marks Garage, Honolulu.
»» Artwork from this show is available for purchase. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Loko ‘Ia: Day and Night is a 1,100 sq-ft, LED-lit mural designed by Solomon Enos and installed at The Flats at Pu‘unui, a new affordable housing development in Kaka‘ako, Honolulu, O‘ahu.
Constructed with a series of layered transparencies, the mural changes color and composition from day to night. The transformative quality of the work points to nature in flux and reveals mysteries in the pō maika‘i (blessed darkness), in which Enos finds beauty and hidden wisdom.
Both day and night compositions depict the thriving eco-system of a lively loko ‘ia (Hawaiian fishpond), full of fish, plankton, jellyfish, and a nocturnal he‘e (octopus). The play of light and phosphorescence act as a beacon, and the mural as a whole is a prophecy of hope — for the return of the fishponds and their symbiosis with nature, and the enduring presence of Kanaloa (god of the deep sea).
Loko ‘Ia: Day and Night, October 2016, 1,100 sq-ft, LED-lit mural, The Flats at Pu‘unui, Kaka‘ako
The Mana Moana: HNL/AKL exhibition featured work from an artist exchange between Honolulu (Hawai‘i) and Auckland (New Zealand). Native Hawaiian artist Solomon Enos spent time with contemporary Maori artist Star Gossage in Pakiri, New Zealand. In turn, Gossage traveled to Enos’ home on the Wai‘anae Coast of O‘ahu. Each painted in their homelands and the places they visited.
The construct of the exchange was inspired by a cultural movement — one that seeks to renew ancestral ties and interconnectivity between Pacifica peoples.
“Through Mana Moana, the artists discovered that living and painting in a village in rural New Zealand and painting in an urban environment in Honolulu produce the same regard and custom of aloha ʻāina (love of land) and matemateaone (a longing for place and for people) that bring you to new understandings of the heart. While the land is the physical plane that binds Pacifica people like Gossage and Enos together, the ocean is the metaphoric heartbeat that echoes back and forth across the waters between Aotearoa and Hawai‘i.” — Ngahiraka Mason
Still Life with Blue Jug, oil on canvas, 30” x 40”, private collection
Still Life with Stone Vase, oil on canvas, 30” x 40”
Mana Moana (diptych), oil on canvas, 8” x 10” each, private collection
»» Artwork from this show is available for purchase. Contact email@example.com.
Created with the support of the DAWSON Art Project, this body of work focuses on the present-day needs of the earth while envisioning a future of harmony and interconnectedness between man and nature. NU (to groan, to shake, to agitate the mind) envisions alternative sources of sustainable energy that are harnessed in ways that "integrate what we need with what the land needs," explains Solomon Enos. Many of the titles begin with, "We will...," which serves as an affirmation to manifest change. "When we say, 'we will,' we are that much closer to a new reality."
In all, Enos painted 14 new works on canvas for the show, seven of which appear here.
Ocean Battery, 2015, oil on canvas, 72" x 48", private collection
Mountain Battery, 2015, oil on canvas, 72" x 48", DAWSON Art Collection
We Will Reseed Our Glaciers, 2015, oil on canvas, 72" x 30", private collection
We Will Communicate Directly With Nature, 2015, oil on canvas, 72" x 30" private collection
We Will Cultivate Sentient Forms of Data, 2015, oil on canvas, 48" x 36", private collection
We Will Solve the Mystery of Consciousness, 2015, oil on canvas, 48" x 36"
We Will Harness the Power of Extreme Weather, 2015, oil on canvas, 48" x 36"
»» Artwork from this show is available for purchase. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Painted for the Copper Bar at Mauna Kea Beach Hotel on Hawai‘i Island, Solomon Enos’ abstraction of kauna‘oa (Cuscuta sandwichiana, a yellowish vine endemic to Hawai‘i) represents the plant’s many forms and movements.
Commonly used in Hawaiian lei, the natural function of kauna‘oa is actually as a regulator or peacekeeper. It grows on plants that have too strong a presence on the shoreline, helping to keep the environment in balance by thinning out plants that may be crowding out other species. By curbing single-species domination, kauna‘oa encourages diversity and helps every plant to thrive — an apt metaphor for how to live in the world.
Kauna'oa, 2015, acrylic on wood, 216 sq-ft
Commissioned by the curators of CONTACT 2015, A Battle of Narratives is a mixed-media art installation by artist Solomon Enos. The artwork’s metaphorical landscape explores the exponential changes that took place in Hawai‘i between the 1880s and 1930s — the Americanization of the Islands. In format, the piece is presented much like an architectural or real estate development model: Resting upon a pedestal, its topography is based on maps of O‘ahu. However, the landscape is populated not with structures, but with anthropomorphic figures of greed and symbols of protection. The hand-sculpted, hand-painted figures represent deities from Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese, Samoan, Korean, and Filipino cultures. The intertwining complexities of the composition remind us that there are many sides to every story, making A Battle of Narratives a provocative visual around which to start an engaging dialogue.
A Battle of Narratives, 2015, mixed-media, 96" x 96" x 36" (tall)
In ancient Hawaiian society, the maka‘āinana (commoner; people who attend the land) were the largest class of people and included skilled farmers, fishermen, and craftsmen. These men and women formed a complex economy in which individuals understood their kuleana (responsibility) and shared in a deep connection to the ‘āina and kai (land and ocean).
For his Maka‘āinana Series, Solomon Enos approached the subject with “a degree of intuition.” He painted the initial three canvases in the series “live” at the Urban Lū‘au event in Kaka‘ako (O‘ahu) in September 2015. Enos envisioned a wahine of the shoreline (makai), a kāne of the midlands (kula), and a kāne of the mountains (mauka) — representatives of the ‘ahupua‘a of Honolulu. The act of painting these figures served as an invitation to the maka‘āinana to join in the modern lū‘au. Enos admits that he was fascinated with their creation, as he says they seemed to come through him, not from him. He later painted three companion pieces in his Nu‘uanu studio to create a sense of balance. These latter works solidified the kane-wahine duality of the series, a significant theme in Hawaiian sensibilities and aesthetics. Each painting imparts a keen awareness of place and a strong presence of the past. The faces of the maka‘āinana, veiled by the passage of time, survey our modern-day movements with unfixed eyes.
Maka‘āinana – Kula, 2015, oil on canvas, 40 in. x 30 in., private collection
Maka‘āinana Wahine – Makai, 2015, oil on canvas, 40 in. x 30 in., private collection
Maka‘āinana – Mauka, 2015, oil on canvas, 40 in. x 30 in., private collection
Maka‘āinana Wahine – Kula, 2015, oil on canvas, 40 in. x 30 in., private collection
Maka‘āinana – Makai, 2015, oil on canvas, 40 in. x 30 in., private collection
Maka‘āinana Wahine – Mauka, 2015, oil on canvas, 40 in. x 30 in., private collection
Created for POW! WOW! Hawaii 2013, Healthy Land, Healthy Ocean, Healthy People is a collaboration between Solomon Enos and Robin Fifita. The mural is inspired by a painting by Bobby Holcomb and represents a link between two vital concepts: pan-Pacific solidarity and the symbiotic well-being between land, ocean, and people.
Mahalo to the crew for their kōkua: Kai Kaulukukui, Sousou Luteru, and Tricia Fifita.
Solomon Enos and Robin Fifita, Healthy Land, Healthy Ocean, Healthy People, 2013, POW! WOW! Hawaii, Cooke and ‘Auahi Streets, Kaka‘ako
Mana Magazine commissioned Solomon Enos to create the cover artwork for its July/August 2012 issue. The piece features a profile bust of Queen Lili‘uokalani, her features rendered as ‘āina (land). The waterways traverse the land like blood vessels in the body, as Enos depicts the ‘āina as a sentient being — the Queen’s consciousness merged with the land’s. “When we talk about the land,” Enos explains, “we talk about our grandmother.” What Enos Incorporated into this sentient landscape are many of the Queen’s concerns, like the lo‘i (kalo patches) and estuaries, which are also associated with her legacy.
From Stars to Stars: An Indigenous Perspective on Human Evolution belongs to Solomon Enos’ larger body of work POLYFANTASTICA, an indigenous science fiction narrative that begins with the question: “What would have happened if we [Native Hawaiians] hadn’t been discovered?”
From Stars to Stars revolves around the idea that humans will eventually expand out into the universe and thus must physically evolve in complex ways. The 11 painted portraits are beings descended from Earth’s Polynesian voyaging cultures that millennia from now have adapted to a life that treats galaxies like islands. From a far, they appear humanoid and sculptural; up close they become gaseous and deeply microbiological. Hung on roofing paper scrolls, they could be honored ancestors, which cleverly loops Enos’ sci-fi narrative back on itself. As the Hawaiians say, “The past holds the future.” Enos offers a series of alternative narratives for each work, which compels viewers to devise their own interpretations.
From Stars to Stars: An Indigenous Perspective on Human Evolution, 2012, acrylic, enamel, china markers on asphalt saturated felt, 36" (w) x 108" (t)
Installation views from BIENNIAL X, Honolulu Museum of Art. Photos by Shuzo Uemoto.
»» Artwork from this series is available for purchase. Contact: Josh Tengan at email@example.com
In September 2012, Solomon Enos had the opportunity to travel with a NOAA expedition to Papāhanaumokuākea Marine National Monument (Northwestern Hawaiian Islands). The Hi‘ialakai research vessel visited nearly every atoll and island in Papāhanaumokuākea, a place of spiritual significance in traditional Hawaiian cosmology. Enos professed to experiencing a profound awe when he encountered the “kūpuna islands,” as he called them.
“It is a realm of extremes. The Island of Nihoa stood erect alone as a single tooth — hot, jagged, and fiercely static,” Enos recalls. “In perpendicular contrast were the dynamic blues of the ocean, cold and swift. Yet these extremes were unified by explosions of life: the constant spirals of uncountable seabirds high above and the teeming corals that thrive hidden beneath the waves.
“All throughout this trip, I experienced a keen mingling of terror and wonder that drove me beyond the limited I had set for myself as an artist. I concluded that, as foreign and surreal as these seascapes seemed to me, they reflected who we are as a species. So in each of the 16 paintings I created aboard the Hi‘ialakai, I incorporated the human form because it seemed to me that our kūpuna (elders) were connected to this region. Not only would our souls pass through these kūpuna islands, but so, too, would these islands digest and recycle our physical forms back into our base materials as we return to our oceans into the collective womb — into the blackness of beginnings to accompany our souls into the Realm of Pō [the realm of the divine and heavenly].”
Six, Eight, Nine, Ten, Thirteen, and Sixteen, Realm of Pō Series, 2012, Papāhanaumokuākea, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
»» Archival reproduction prints from this series are also available for purchase. See the PRINTS section of this website.
POLYFANTASTICA is a graphic novel that explores the cosmic genealogy of humans through the lens of indigenous cultures. The story begins with the question: “What if we (Native Hawaiians) were never interrupted?” Out of this question, an epic, sci-fi tale spanning 40,000 years unfolds in a parallel universe in an oceanic realm called Moananui, home to multiple Pacific cultures.
On POLYFANTASTICA, Jeffry Cudlin of The Washington Post wrote: "Enos invites viewers into a stunningly complex fantasy world in which humans wear organic exoskeletons, evolve extra eyes or finlike limbs and use technology to develop collective consciousness. Enos’s world reflects and extends Hawaii’s ancient animist traditions. Yet readers of his comics don’t need to know the sources of his ideas to enjoy his elaborate fiction."
An ongoing body of work, artwork from POLYFANTASTICA is exhibited in the 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art in Brisbane, Australia; SPF Projects in Honolulu; Reboot: Fashion Futures in Honolulu; and CTRL+ALT: A Culture Lab on Imagined Futures in New York.
•••| Download POLYFANTASTICA [published by Queensland Art Gallery]
Cover of POLYFANTASTICA, 2009
Millennial Avatar 13, 2006–present
Millennial Avatar 14, 2006–present
Human Seed-Ships, 2014
Human Seedships, 2014, digital print, acrlic ink, shellac, conte on manila folder, 9” (w) x 14” (h), PEWA II, SPF Projects, Honolulu
»» Artwork from this body of work is available for purchase. Contact: Josh Tengan firstname.lastname@example.org.