Barry Dabb - New Zealand Artist.

The Rarotongan Garden Paintings

The Rarotongan Garden Paintings first began in 1998 after a family visit to the Cook Islands. Viewing an exhibition entitled Paringa Ou at the Cook Islands National Museum, Barry realised that the exhibitors were all New Zealand residents, four of whom he had taught at tertiary level. The process of assimilation that had infiltrated the Rarotongan way of life, art forms and the influences of Christianity triggered the concept for the series.

The series was developed in suites, each suite being a specific site(s) in the Cook Islands. The first suite of five paintings was inspired by the Cook Islands Cultural Centre gardens and exhibited at the Rotorua Museum of Art and History in 1999 as New Works 1998/99.

After a return visit to the Cook Islands in 2003, the series was recommenced and two further suites, produced from sites in Rarotonga and Aitutaki, were completed in 2006. In all, the series comprises twenty five works, including some smaller preliminary studies. Stylistically the works have evolved from quite heavily impasted surfaces to more refined surfaces and the larger scale of the later works.

The garden sites were specifically selected because they are cultivated gardens that invariably include a range of imported plant species. In this context the garden paintings reflect the processes of assimilation.

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