Barry Dabb - New Zealand Artist.

Under Va'ea

Produced throughout 2008 the series titled Under Va'ea refers directly to Mount Va'ea on the Samoan mainland of Upolo. It is here that the 19th century novelist Robert Louis Stevenson moved in 1889 and built his home 'Vailima'. A great number of the Samoan garden paintings are from the grounds of 'Vailima'. They continue several of the themes the artist has developed in his Pacific imagery.

Having visited Samoa in 2007 Barry continues to explore the themes of cultural assimilation (that began with the Rarotongan Garden Paintings) but in these works there is a stronger move towards an abstraction as the compositional cropping is more severe, creating less sense of pictorial depth. The painting of light as a symbol of spiritual presence and the strength of colour so strong in Samoan vegetation (and within Pacific culture generally) remains a primary concern.

As in the Postcards from Vila series there is a contrast between a perceived reality and pictorial illusion. The shapes and brush marks create patterns of colour at close viewing and a realistic illusion from a distance.

Gardens as a subject in art have a great number of historical associations. On the initial voyages of exploration botanists and scientists collected and drew plant specimens from all around the Pacific and in the early watercolour drawings of New Zealand, artists' depicted the landscape as Gods handiwork. Gardens have also been linked with the notion of human control over nature and by association as a symbol of a civilisation process. These are themes that the artist is aware that viewers may associate with this body of work and sees them as complimentary to his own thematic concerns.

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