Auckland Art Fair
February 24-28, 2021
Booth 8 | The Cloud | Auckland Waterfront
Mahiriki Tangaroa | Sylvia Marsters | Raymond Sagapolutele
Bergman Gallery is pleased to present a site specific collection of new works by Mahiriki Tangaroa, Sylvia Marsters and Raymond Sagapolutele.
Mahiriki Tangaroa | Custodians & Kinship
A graduate of the Ilam School of Fine Arts, Canterbury University (1997), Mahiriki Tangaroa is an artist of regional renown. Finding inspiration in pre-colonial artifacts, legend and folklore, her research centers on the Cook Islands God of the Ocean, Tangaroa, the God of Agriculture and War, Rongo, and the unnamed Aitutaki goddess. Her artwork also 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 (the Gods) journey, a voyage of the Cook Islands as a constructed nation and her own personal voyage as a driving force in modern Pacific art.’
Mahiriki Tangaroa’s recent paintings have addressed multiple social issues surrounding the Cook Islands community. The Cook Islands nation itself is in a transitional phase, as its modern day identity evolves and seeks to reconcile with its past. Her major 2019 solo show Earth, Wind & Fire…. Irrespective of Place, questioned the nature and evolution of Cook Islands culture in a contemporary timeline, with specific reference to the ongoing debate of a country name change away from the colonially tainted ‘Cook Islands’ to a more culturally appropriate identity. For the Auckland Art Fair, Tangaroa’s paintings have been painted either side of the global pandemic. The new triptych “Custodians and Kinship” encompasses the works ‘Walking on Sunshine’, Between Wind & Ocean’ and “Between Land & Mankind” The artist states, “these works were created as an extension of the “Earth, Wind and Fire” series in a bid to generate discussion on our fundamental elements of land, ocean and sun. It questions how, as custodians, are we best protecting, conserving and strengthening our natural resources, critical to our health and livelihood as a small island nation.
Accompanying these paintings is a new series inspired by her 2020 solo show, In a Perfect World. Stylistically, the artist has moved away from her more formal construct, as the world changed, so did she. Tangaroa’s new works present powerful colour studies and disambiguated construct. As reality struggles to comprehend the now, everything around us will change.
For 20 years, Mahiriki Tangaroa has been a catalyst for Rarotonga’s contemporary art identity, organizing international artist residencies and training workshops for established and aspiring artists and exhibiting both domestically and internationally. Her extensive exhibition history includes shows in Rarotonga, Auckland, Dunedin, Christchurch, Sydney, New York and Stockholm. Tangaroa’s work is included in the collection of the Cook Islands National Museum, Rarotonga; The Cook Islands Government; University of the South Pacific, Cook Islands Campus, Takamoa, Rarotonga; Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade, New Zealand and the James Wallace Arts Trust, New Zealand.
Sylvia Marsters | Introspective
The magnetism of flowers within human culture is all encompassing. From the origin of a flower’s name to its distinctive characteristics and rich mythology, flowers are infused with symbolism and meaning.
Born and raised in Aotearoa, artist Sylvia Marsters is of Cook Islands descent and Gardenias have long been a subject close to her heart. She states, ‘Painting the revered Gardenia was a duty, albeit a labor of love.’ Drawing from her father’s Pacific Islands heritage and her Mothers obsessive enthusiasm for gardening, the artist has painted Gardenias in increasing detail throughout her career. Universally treasured for its hypnotic scent, thick waxy petal & sculptural form, these regal flowers capture the senses, evoking memory & connection. In Rarotonga, they are ever-present. They are the scent and embodiment of a tropical locale, invoking a fantastical experience of romance, optimism and self.
For her most recent series of Gardenia paintings, the artist has said that she has looked to the tradition of 19th and 20th century Viennese flower painting, from Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller to Gustav Klimt. Marster’s work is exceptionally detailed. Grand cycles of life play out in glorious detail across the canvases. They are beautiful, yet pensive. Dark, moody backgrounds draw the viewer past the obvious fragility of the flowers into a void of heightened emotion, they are spaces and experiences yet to be encountered. Marster’s also draws parallels with the 17th century Dutch masters use and conceptual premise of Gravitas, Vanitas and Ephemeral, naming some of her paintings in this series as such. These titles definitions reflect the transient nature of our experience, and this is delivered within Marster’s compositions, but there are no grand stories of colonial conquest to paint today. Instead, Marster’s readily acknowledges her artistic hero, Georgia O’Keefe, who said, ‘When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment, I want to give that world to someone else.’ O’Keefe is an important influence in Marster’s oeuvre, but unlike the ethereal/abstract style of the ‘Mother of Modernism’, Marster’s advocates for your attention with the confronting detail and scale reminiscent of old.
Marster’s Gardenias are represented in hyper detail, full evergreen shrubs with white flowers in various stages of bloom, some are buds, and some have reached the end of their brief life spans. The mood of the paintings varies, from almost surreal to high definition. They are painted in various sizes, from a relatively demure, small canvas to commanding, large square images.
For the artist, these flowers link her heritage with her present reality – the Gardenias of Aitutaki, where her father was born, and the Gardenias of Auckland, where she lives. Within these compositions, Marsters debates her sense of place, reconciling past stories of a romanticized Island lifestyle with the realities of urban existence in a modern city. Following the death of her father in 1994, flowers became her touchstone, her point of connection to her father’s story and heritage. For the viewer, the artist asks you to slow down and appreciate the process of personal observation, if only for a moment, to block out the chaos of everyday life, and become lost in the wealth of sensation and detail in the composition in front of you. These flowers evoke strong emotional connections, leading you down personal paths of remembrance, to each, a different experience awaits. In today’s pandemic reality and the impending ‘new normal’, this theme has become a survival skill.
With an extensive exhibition history throughout Auckland and Rarotonga, Marsters work has also been exhibited in Zurich and New York. Her paintings are included in the collection of the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and the Cook Islands National Museum.
Raymond Sagapolutele | O Lona Uiga
Raymond Sagapolutele is an Aotearoa born Sāmoan artist with family ties to the villages of Fatuvalu in Savai’i and Saluafata in Upolu, Samoa. He picked up the camera in 2003 and began a self- taught photography journey that would see him work with editorial publications Back to Basics and Rip It Up as a staff photographer as well as submissions to the NZ Herald and Metro Magazine. Sagapolutele completed his Masters in Visual Arts in 2019, with first-class honours and received the Deans Award for Excellence in Postgraduate study from the Auckland University of Technology (AUT).
Raymond was a finalist in the 2019 and 2020 Wallace Arts Award and a finalist in the 2019 Glaister Ennor Graduate Art Awards. He honed his style of documentary street photography as one of several photographers in the locally formed and internationally connected graffiti creative collective known as The Most Dedicated (TMD). Sagapolutele is also a founding member of the ManaRewa art collective based at Nathan Homestead in Manurewa and alongside senior members helps to tutor and support the local arts community. For the artist, the camera has become a vital part of his ability to reconnect his art to his heritage as a diasporic Samoan with cultural ties that link him to the history of the Pacific and the land within that vast ocean. The camera is how his visual language is given a voice, the method that forms his oratory and connects to the Samoan tradition of Fagogo (storytelling).
What have we become and what will we become? Raymond Sagapolutele’s photographic triptych for the 2021 Auckland Art Fair reconciles Pacific constructs of past, present and future, a powerful narrative delivered within his ancestor skull motif.
Tagata Uli, knowledge of the past, the ancestor skull is fully encircled by a flower Kahoa, made by Kilistina Nafe and gifted to the artist on a visit to an Auckland primary school to witness the impact of cultural practice and indigenous knowledge on a younger generation. The Kahoa is bright and constructed from synthetic material. The cultural skill that is being passed on has evolved, to survive and suit its new environment. We cannot live in the past, but we can take the knowledge with us.
In Knowledge, the ancestor skull wears the artist’s university graduation garland, gifted by family. Sagapolutele speaks not only to the inherent value of learning, both traditional and modern, but to a broader Pacific context of lost knowledge – as the older generation become ancestors themselves, the garland (like the ancestor) becomes brittle with age and the knowledge they safeguard is not necessarily passed on to the next generation.
In Change, the artist confronts the unknown future with a powerful message of maternal love. The tone of the image is lighter and a blue lavalava belonging to the artists mother encircles the ancestor skull. Hawaiian academic Dr Manulani Aluli Meyer described the colour blue, (lanumoana in Samoan), the colour of the ocean, as the colour of aloha, alofa, love. Hope for the future has come from re-connecting with heart and heritage, recognizing the alofa, love of culture, family and community. The artists writes ‘The future and the return to love, colours my vision and with the presence of my mothers’ lavalava, the alofa of my parents’ circles and embraces me’.
Raymond Sagapolutele’s work is included in the collections of the Auckland Festival of Photography Commission Archive; The James Wallace Arts Trust, New Zealand; Weltkuturen Museum of Culture, Frankfurt, Germany and the Manukau City Council Mangere Arts Centre, Auckland, New Zealand.