Mahiriki Tangaroa
In a Perfect World
New Paintings
28 October – 14 November.

VIP Opening 6pm, Tuesday 27th October with CITC Liquor & Tohu Wines
Tickets: $50, includes Hor d’oeuvres, wine and draw for a Mahiriki Tangaroa limited ed. print. 

Speakers:
Garth Henderson, MFEM Financial Secretary
Mahiriki Tangaroa, Artist.
Ben Bergman, Gallery Director.

We all live in a new age, unimaginable to us until 8 months ago.

The phrase  ‘unprecedented times’ is now almost lexicon, but these times are not unprecedented. This has all happened before, and very recently. Social distancing and wearing masks were all strategy’s to combat a similar virus 100 years ago.

And this time around, we were warned, many times. Since the early 2000s, the world has experienced the outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and influenza virus H1N1 (swine flu).There was the usual media storm but there wasn’t really that much concern, it was too far away (MERS & SARS) or it didn’t really affect us right? (H1N1).

But hey, it turns out it was a dry run for the bigger global pandemic to come, so places like Taiwan really nailed their COVID response, unlike, say, the United States, Brazil, India and a fair few others.

As a species, we have become complacent, entitled and arrogant.   We have taken to heart the mantra ‘greed is good’. Our individual rights are paramount, and we don’t care enough for our fellow man or our environment.We are simply not prepared to suffer any inconvenience in our pursuit of comfort.

As a consequence, the global environment is under peril, that its change is now inevitable despite the best efforts of the few.

But this is not a dystopian write up.

Without prejudice, this is our reality. We as a species are at odds with our natural surround. As a direct result of our combined action, we must now accept the consequence of escalating pandemics and climate change. They are inextricably related. So, we will adapt, we will move into this new era and respond to it as best we can, hopefully in a more enlightened capacity, but that remains to be seen. If we don’t, we know our situation will worsen. If we do, perhaps we can salvage some of what we have spoiled.

Ahhh, the good old days! Wasn’t yesteryear grand!!  It is not surprising given our new circumstances that we increasingly wax lyrical about the past.

Movies we used to watch, music we used to listen to, retro is back baby, and in force, immediately accessible and streaming on demand. And it is – checkout the offering on Spotify and Netflix! We yearn for a less complicated, happier time, free of the current fear and uncertainty.

Our (re)imagined, perfect world.

And it is in this vein that Mahiriki Tangaroa’s new exhibition is presented.

Tangaroa is an artist of regional renown. Her art primarily addresses change and identity within a modern cultural context. She has an engaging style of painting, as curator Arthur Buerms noted in 2019.

‘Each of the paintings is a visual feast catapulting you to a campfire where old stories, about the dangerous heights of the mysterious mountains, the spirits of the ever- encircling sea, the expressive radiance of the fauna and flora, are told while dancing and eating. The evolution of her artwork can be read as a metaphorical voyage: Tangaroa’s journey, a voyage of the Cooks Islands as a constructed nation and her own personal voyage as a driving force in modern pacific art.’

In a perfect world takes you on a voyage, and this is most certainly a voyage for the ages. Confronting the COVID epidemic on her own terms, the artist returned to an alternative reality courtesy of a rediscovered self-portrait painted 15 years ago. It was vibrant, full of life and colour – a marked allegorical contrast to our present reality.

It clicked, and the artist responded.

In a perfect world runs a gauntlet of emotion, the paintings titles reflecting key moments in Tangaroa’s (and our) journey through this epidemic.

Tangaroa writes ‘Confronting times can often prompt the need to escape to an elevated, alternative reality, a world of strength, courage, heroism, a world that promises a wealth of joy, happiness, fulfilling our every need and expectation. Although a self constructed, almost fictitious world, it can fundamentally serve as a guiding beacon, in the endeavour to reconcile seemingly unrelenting issues and challenges.’

 We have all responded to this pandemic in different ways. Dependent on where we live, some have more resources and options, some don’t. What is inescapable is that no one has been spared its effect and how we finally emerge from the COVID era remains to be seen. Will there really be a ‘new normal’? Will we now fully recognize the existential crisis on our proverbial doorstep? Has this pandemic been enough of a wakeup call for all of us?

We will find out, and the future may seem normal again, however different it is, in a perfect world. Ben Bergman.