Empowerment Through Art

Leigh artist and illustrator Miki Pogoni moves seamlessly between the different mediums of oil, ink, charcoal, graphite and digital. She has a unique style - but would rather not try to describe it. “I think I’ll just wait until someone else puts it in a category,” she says. 

Categories are an important theme in Miki’s work. Inspired by lowbrow, pop-surrealism, she uses everyday items and symbols to question notions around gender, race and sexuality. 

“A lot of my art is themed around strong women and gender,” Miki says. “I like portraying empowerment, but I also take on the historical sexualisation of women, how it’s pervaded even the most innocent scenarios - like sucking on a lollipop.

“I paint how this sexualisation demonises the perception of both genders at the same time. The way men are being portrayed as predatory and on the other side – as a woman – you’re demonised for your actions, no matter what you do.” 

Miki has been thinking a lot about how women are portrayed in art. 

“Through Western history, we have seen mostly white men make art and only in the last century or so have begun to see more women portraying women. Is there a difference in perception and do women draw for empowerment? I would say I do. Though the viewer is important to how works are perceived.”

Born in Tonga, to a Kiwi father and Japanese mother, Miki moved to New Zealand as a child. She spent time in Japan as a teenager and draws inspiration from the culture, but also questions the sexualisation of Asian women. 

“I usually don’t say what my art means, I like people to dig deeper or create meaning for themselves. But my imperial blue painting with cranes is definitely a strange take on Asian stereotypes,” Miki says. “And as far as the cranes go, people see them in pictures and think they’re beautiful. In reality, they’re huge with an ear-piercing scream – definitely not graceful! I enjoy using this dichotomy that lives inside one figure.”

Miki started out doing darker pieces, but lately has been using more colours. 

“I really like using colours to flip perspectives and give things a new meaning. Using black and white gives a picture a lot darker meaning than using pink or blue on the same subject,” she says.

“I love stars, galaxies and nebulas - putting little pieces of the universe into paintings where I can.”

After studying art and graphic design, Miki lived in Auckland for a few years. Eventually, she felt her work becoming stagnant and longed to return to Leigh. Here she swaps painting tips with her mother, also an artist, and looks forward to showing at the Snells Beach Great Summer Art Exhibition later this year. 

“You can’t smell the salt in the air when you’re in the city. As soon as I moved back to Leigh, colour started coming back into my work.” 

See more of her work on Instagram @mikip.art or on Facebook. 

Miki’s is available for commission work or her prints are available online. 



ArtJunction Mag