The triumph of Oceania is that it moves from the oldest known carving in New Zealand, carved many centuries ago, through the colonial era of Captain Cook and other explorers to the 21st century when we can start to see the development of a modern identity to the art. Oceania is a difficult place to describe, being thousands of islands scattered across a huge area south of Japan and California. Hence, not surprisingly, there is quite a focus on decorative arts related to boats, along with houses and the historic religious beliefs of the islands. Is there something about cultureat that early stage of development that some of the work appears quite Celtic in style?
While the same styles continued through the years, the appearance of European explorers changed everything and it is fascinating to see symbols of European culture such as the Union Jack, contemporary fashion and the Hollywood image of the Phantom slipped into local art, while Tene Waitere’s carving looks uncanningly contemporary, despite being 100 years old.
Moving into the 21st century, video and photography by Fiona Pardington makes an appearance alongside works by John Pule that incorporate symbols of modern civilisation and industrialisstion and Michael Parekowhai’s stunning grand piano brings two different cultures together and reinforces that Oceania is a cultural force to be reckoned with in the modern world.