Prepare to be Dazzled
Bergman Gallery’s Autumn Group Show features the work of fourteen extremely talented artists, each bringing to the table vibrant explorations of culture and demonstrating the continued innovation of contemporary Aotearoa artists across an array of mediums. With many of the works inspired by Pasifika and Queer cultures, the exhibition highlights the intersectional nature of the artists’ diverse backgrounds and bridges the divide between traditional and western influences.
Telly Tuita’s expansive contribution proves an undeniable standout in the exhibition with his distinctive ‘Tongapop’ approach to the art of creation. Described by art writer and curator Robert Leonard as a, “collision of indigenous and pop sensibilities, where colonised and colonising rub together, where traditional, grounded oral cultures dance with global mass media,” these pieces call attention to Tuita’s diasporic influences and the vivid intersection between tradition and contemporary culture.
The exhibition features multiple works from Tuitia’s series The Immortal Tango of Love and War, depicting the artist assuming the identities of ‘Ofa’ or ‘Tau.’ Tuita has assumed every role in the creation process for these works; from propmaker to model, to stylist and to photographer and demonstrates a mastery of every aspect. These portraits, posed against a brilliant faux-tapa backdrop and garnished with upcycled materials, depict the artist playing into and subverting traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity whilst providing a poignant commentary on the amalgamation of multiple cultures. Consider Tuita’s representation of Tau; his gas mask is adorned with woven elements and each garment is fashioned from vivid plastics. This deliberately crafted culmination of tradition and modernity signal both the duplicity of identity and the power of multifaceted identity.
A continuation of Sione Monū’s cloud series also makes an appearance in the exhibition, delighting viewers with the artist’s experimental take on nimamea’a tuikakala (the Tongan art of flower design). Veering away from Monū’s usual propensity for bright colours, we see an entirely white piece, contrasting nicely against their vibrant photographic work entitled ‘Winter Clouds.’ These works play with the very nature of the thing they represent; instead of blocking out light, they reflect, dazzle and flare in its presence. The varied mediums capture this beautifully, demonstrating the incessant beauty of Monū’s creations in any and all forms.
Bringing a playful energy to the gallery, two works by Lucas Grogan are also featured, commanding attention through the artist’s distinctive colour palette. These works, described as two studies of gay advice, depict bookshelves with each spine sporting a brilliantly witty title. With statements ranging from ‘never date a scorpio’ to ‘are you turning into your mum?’ Grogan’s employment of text alongside imagery of pansies, poodles and a teddy in a bondage get up provide a clever approach to the subject of sexuality.
From Heather Straka’s brilliantly constructed compositions to the kaleidoscopic brushwork of Gavin Jones, the rest of the exhibition proves equally entrancing. While walking through the sun soaked space, you’ll notice each piece seems to both deviate from and complement the next in a way that speaks volumes to the curational prowess of the gallery team. The artwork lingers in the viewer’s mind long after you’ve stepped outside, much like the subtle figure of Hikuleʻo lurking in the backgrounds of Tuitia’s work. Bergman Galleries skillful curation of such diverse voices has resulted in a captivating Autumn showcase that implores viewers to consider the multifaceted nature of our own communities.
Bergman Gallery’s Autumn Group Show runs from March 24th – April 15th, 3/582 Karangahape Road