Auckland Art Fair, 2019
May 1-5, The Cloud
– Andy Leleisi’uao, Mark Cross, Mahiriki Tangaroa, Benjamin Work
For the 2019 edition of the Auckland Art Fair, Bergman Gallery presents a group show of brand new paintings by four renowned Polynesian artists,
Andy Leleisi’uao (Samoa/New Zealand), Mark Cross (Niue/ New Zealand) Benjamin Work (Tonga) and Mahiriki Tangaroa (Cook Islands).
From his Wallace Arts Trust Paramount award residency at the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York, undertaken July-November 2018, Andy Leleisi’uao will debut his remarkable 12 panel series A Diasporic Pulse of Faith & Patience. Leleisi’uao’s recent works extend the artist’s premise of an emergent society, re-imagined as a parallel universe, where the traditional human foibles of inequality, injustice and intolerance are constantly broken down and reconstructed in an endless endeavor to build utopia.
From his Niue studio, realist painter Mark Cross presents a new, large-scale water painting, Turbulent. Cross’s analysis confronts the fragile state of the human condition, its fraught conflict with itself and its corrosive relationship with nature. Cross’s commentary, while pacific based, easily translates within current global headlines.
Cook Islands artist Mahiriki Tangaroa’s new paintings are multifaceted symphonies of colour, shape and form. Fauna and pareu patterns, Tivaivai motif and traditional iconography merge together, the artist’s distinct compositions reflecting insightful observations of a contemporary Pacific Island culture struggling to reconcile past and present values.
Benjamin Work features in a special weekend art fair presentation. Work’s distinctive warrior characters link time, place and purpose as the artist navigates relational spaces and connections to his ancestral environment and questions their contemporary relevance.
Andy Leleisi’uao: is one of the most significant Pacific artists living and working in New Zealand today. Over the past 20 years Leleisi’uao’s style has morphed from highly volatile, expressive paintings and sculpture into sophisticated stories reflecting the artist’s inner space. Through his more recent work, Andy has created alternative universes, emergent societies populated by strange creatures that are free of traditional human prejudice. It is a genesis point, a veritable human reset button. His influence range is enormous, he draws from ancient & modern history, literary history, art history, pop culture history, world headlines, personal experiences, he rarely leaves a stone unturned. He tells the story of what we can be as a species, regardless of our cultural stature, religious convictions, skin colour or sexual orientation.
A full time artist since 1996, Andy’s CV is accomplished in exhibitions, awards, and residencies. His work is included in the permanent collections of Pataka Museum and Art Gallery, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the Auckland Art Gallery, the Chartwell Collection, MFAT and the James Wallace Arts Trust collection Most recently, Andy is the recipient of the 2017 Wallace Arts Trust Paramount Award and completed a 5 month residency at the International Studio & Curitorial Program (ISCP) in New York City in 2018.
Mahiriki Tangaroa: Trained as a photographer, Tangaroa transitioned to painting in Rarotonga and found inspiration in the ancient and customary Cook Islands art and artifacts she researched at the National Museum such as the God of the Ocean, Tangaroa, the God of agriculture and war Rongo and the unnamed Aitutaki goddess. Tangaroa has been a catalyst for Rarotonga’s arts community, organizing multiple artist residencies and training workshops for established and aspiring artists.
Through her art, curating, and advocacy, Tangaroa challenges artists and audiences to consider the impacts of cultural imperialism: “The arrival of Christianity in the Cook Islands brought great changes in the arts.
The acceptability of decorating functional objects for ceremonial purposes managed to survive, but the making of figurative gods, tattooing, and tapa-making ceased almost completely. Elimination of these practices destroyed evidence of [Cook Islands] artistic history and is one of the main contributing factors to the absence of certain designs, symbols, and motifs in the art produced today.” These concerns fuel her artistic practice. By re-constructing customary symbols interspersed with tapa or pareu patterns, she draws attention to persistence of Cook Islands culture and the evolving nature of identity.
Mark Cross: Born in Auckland in 1955, Mark Cross began making art during his mid teens. At the age of 23 he moved with his family to his wife’s village, Liku, on the island of Niueand it was during these early years that a strong philosophic and stylistic foundation was established for his career as an artist.
Cross now divides his time between his studios in Niue and New Zealand. Although the work is hyper realistic in it’s detail, reference to these countries is limited to the use of local elements for the creation of a timeless, lateral world where his works act out and question the foibles of humanity but never try to proffer answers.
Benjamin Work: Benjamin is a core member of the international art collective, TMD, and is also an active member of the Tongan art collective, No’o Fakataha. With a solid grounding in aerosol painting, his initial creative output centered around sub/pop-cultural influences that emerged from North America in the 1970s -1990s. Since then, Benjamin has continued his journey of ancestral discovery and steadily developed his interests and research into aspects of Tongan history and culture.
Benjamin’s practice extends across a diverse range of projects, which include large scale public murals, commercial print based media, paintings, photography and performance. Combining an ongoing investigation into the symbolic use of colour, kula (red) and `uli (black), with a strong interest in Tongan history, Ngatu (bark cloth) making, Kupesi (designs and motifs), and the heliaki (semiotics) of the Povāi (ancient Tongan war clubs), his work forms as a contemporary point which furthers the parallels that can be drawn between established Tongan traditions and practices, and the spiritual and social significance these have for Tongans within the Pacific diaspora.
The bold visual language of his work references historical narratives, iconography, symbolism, and design elements that are particular to Tongan culture, which are also firmly positioned amidst notions connected with Ta and Va (time and space) Tatau (symmetry), Potupotutatau (harmony) and Faka `ofa `ofa (beauty). Benjamin has exhibited in Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, North America, Rarotonga and Tonga where he travels frequently.
Based in Rarotonga and established in 2016, Bergman Galleryis dedicated to the exhibition of Modern Pacific Art. Bergman Gallery evolved from its former incarnation as BCA Gallery which was established in 2001. Directed by Ben Bergman, Bergman Gallery represents artists from the Cook Islands, Tonga, Samoa, Niue and New Zealand. Since 2001, BCA/Bergman Gallery have delivered over 100 projects including appearances at New York’s VOLTA Art Fair (2011, 2012, 2014), the Auckland Art Fair (2016, 2018, 2019) and numerous other exhibitions in Rarotonga, Auckland, Dunedin and Christchurch.
Bergman Gallery represents: Mahiriki Tangaroa, Andy Leleisi’uao, Reuben Paterson, Nanette Lela’ulu, Michel Tuffery, Tungane Broadbent, Mark Cross, Sylvia Marsters & Benjamin Work.