It is impossible to escape the mesmeric qualities of Sylvia Marsters flower paintings. Brilliant colour and realism demand your attention, the composition of the artist’s flower works designed to draw you into a powerful space filled with a wealth of sensation.
Born in New Zealand, to a Cook Islands (Aitutaki), father and Kiwi mother, Marsters grew up in Otara, attending a Seventh Day Adventist school in Mangere. Obsessed with drawing from a young age, she once described her school art classes as “inadequate”, with the prospect of a career in the arts an unlikely course of events.
“When I left school I worked in a clothing factory as a machinist, it was so boring” Marsters stated in an interview with the New Zealand Herald. Evening art classes, including painting sessions with veteran artist Lois McIvor invigorated Marsters resolve. Captivated by her perceptions of the Cook Islands, Marsters renowned flower works first emerged in 2000, the art works bold arrangements defined by a personal longing to experience her heritage. This is in stark contrast to the “Kiwi-ized sub-culture of her parents, her father having left Aitutaki in 1952. “A lot of his generation didn’t want to know about their culture when they got here,” Marsters states. “Church became the most important thing and they never talked about their culture. Now the next generation is reviving it.”
Marsters dream was realized in 2003, when she was awarded the Creative New Zealand Artist in Residence to Rarotonga. For Marsters, her arrival in Rarotonga was a universal moment in her personal and artistic journey and it proved to be hugely inspiring, generating two local exhibitions (O’Ora Te Moenga and Te Ruperupe O Toku Ipukarea) and a fresh resolve. Since then, Marsters has continued to exhibit in Rarotonga and New Zealand and, with BCA Gallery Rarotonga, exhibited at the 2014 edition of the VOLTA – NYC art fair. While it would be easy to interpret Marsters canvas’s as ‘pretty flowers’ – if you transcend the aesthetic realism which initially captures your attention, a new world full of impossible optimism emerges. This is a realm born of three elemental experience’s, the child of a contemporary New Zealand upbringing fused with the back-story of her father’s Eden-like origins ultimately confronting the pungent reality of Island life in the 21st century.
Stand in front of a Marsters painting and allow the colour, texture and form to propel you into a state of fantastic hyper- experience, a rich blend of fantasy, reality and expectation.
Sylvia Marsters will next appear with Bergman Gallery at the Auckland Art Fair, February 24-28, 2021.
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