Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Island life

I came across these paintings by Paul Gauguin today in a second-hand book shop, and realised they hold some really relevant themes in relation to my current work. Portraying native Tahitian's in an almost prelapsarian state, they were the work of a man idealising and romanticising a past that had ceased to be, Tahiti long being a French colony by the time he made his visits. His fascination with their 'primitive' nature and an almost mythologised vision of semi-naked women offering forward fruit and reclining in the exotic landscapes are typical of an imperialistic West, and Gauguin was keen to build upon the myth, presenting these images as if they were treasures and truths of an undiscovered land. The curator of the forthcoming retrospective of his work at Tate Modern (the first in 50 years in Britain) has even gone as far as to say the relationship he had with his models was exploitative, forming sensationalist visions of Tahitian life to shock and play up to people's prejudices.

His intentions in leaving Europe for Tahiti were, reportedly to remove himself from European civilisation, with which he had grown increasingly frustrated, mainly due to his lack of recognition. He was in search of a tropical paradise, an escape from what the Western world considered civilised, and these paintings are a product of that very romanticisation.

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