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Media release 'Postcards from Paradise'

‘POSTCARDS FROM PARADISE’

by

TANIA WURSIG

OPENS AT GALERIE WINKLER, TAHITI -13TH SEPTEMBER 2018

 

Tania Wursig returns to Tahiti for her 7th annual visit with her new body of work ‘Postcards from Paradise’ set to open at Galerie Winkler on the 13th September.

Wursig is well known in Tahiti and internationally for her vibrant paintings that celebrate the Tahitian spirit and culture. Her works increasingly illustrate the deep connection the Polynesian people have with their ‘Fenua’.

With this continuing theme, Wursig hopes to touch the viewer and reignite the sense that humans and nature are one. With ever increasing threats of climate change, this artist’s work serves as a reminder to the world that we must protect the beauty of Tahiti and other Pacific cultures and their islands.

 

In her new body of work ‘Postcards from Paradise’ Wursig has introduced a new element, an underlying examination of the theme of suppression and exploitation of a people and their culture.

“I have always been fascinated by the aesthetic of Tahitian post colonial imagery. Most of these are staged depictions of the seductive, Tahitian Vahine in paradise. Whilst many of these images are simply that, others seem to reveal a blatant exploitation of the islanders’ natural sense of comfort and freedom with their physicality. This seems a rather hypocritical contrast to the ‘Mother Hubbard’ imposed dress style of the missionary days. In some images the ‘subject’ (usually a woman) is seen to cringe under the shadow of this voyeuristic, colonial male, gaze.”

I see these post colonial images as a metaphor for all that colonial rule and the ‘modern’ world have taken from indigenous peoples world wide. Not only destroying precious culture and tradition but also the lands and seas they inhabit.

In this exhibition, half of the works are made up of collaged backgrounds of this historic imagery, then painted with acrylic and mixed media. In some pieces this artist has used excerpts of poetry by Henri Hiro (famous Tahitian poet and cultural hero) to add impact to the narrative of these powerful images.

In the series entitled ‘Postcards’ Wursig has used a collage of the above mentioned images as a ground and then loosely overpainted faces of Tahitian ‘Vahine’ or ‘Tane’ gazing back at the viewer.

“These historical images tell a story of submission, of subjects placed under the viewers gaze. I want to turn that gaze back onto the viewer, thus empowering the subject. The postcards and vintage images emerge from the paint like a memory. In some cases a painful memory of past colonial oppression and in others the romanticised imagery of la ‘belle epoque‘ of the 50’s and 60’s that perpetuated the myth of ‘Paradise Lost’. Emerging forth from these historical images are the Tahitians of today, reclaiming their power and sense of place.....shining through the shadow of history strong and proud.”

It is my intention for these works to be viewed as an expression of the strength and evolution of the Tahitian people and their culture... a symbol of survival.

The other half of the paintings in this exhibition remain Wursig’s signature technique of painting on the Tahitian Pareu prints, depicting people at one with their ‘fenua’.

“I usually begin a body of work by taking photographs from which I then create my paintings. In this series my images are inspired by these early colonial pictures. However, instead of placing my models in front of painted scenes I placed them in nature. I style them in similar poses to those found in the vintage images, but with a difference. I hope to convey that the Tahitian people are by no means subjects, naked to the voyeuristic gaze. They mostly engage direct eye contact with the viewer, strong, proud, confident and intrinsically connected to their ‘Fenua'. Thus reversing the role, making the viewer now the subject. Using this device, reversal of the ‘gaze’, I hope to challenge the viewer. In one respect they will be seduced by the beauty and abundance of these people and their ‘Fenua' yet feel a little uncomfortable and confronted unable to avoid the eye contact.”

In many of Wursig’s compositions she uses nature and fruit as a metaphor for the earth/mother nature. Often the subjects hold a pineapple, Uru, flower or branch of bananas as if it were an infant, something precious that needs to be loved and nurtured...In some of the paintings the subjects gaze flirts with the viewer, offering the fruit, reminiscent of the apple in the garden of eden, inviting the viewer to ‘enter paradise’. In others this metaphor is coupled with a direct, almost confronting gaze intended to challenge the viewer, ..... ‘do you dare to enter paradise?’

“My paintings depicting people at one with nature are intended to invoke both a welcome and a warning ....if we dare to enjoy their paradise can we honour and respect all it’s gifts and beauty? Or will we remain the ‘colonial tourist’, taking snapshots and souvenirs, shirking our responsibility to the earth...their ‘Fenua'...the last true paradise on earth...when will we listen? when will we take action?....when the sea levels are so high that paradise is LOST?????