TikiMiki - a Return to Eden

Along with many others, Gauguin travelled to French Polynesia in order to escape the European culture of his time, with the hope of finding paradise. Upon arriving, what was found was the scant remains of the first culture - and instead the recreation of aspects of European society, from religion and clothing to social norms. Is it any wonder then, that many visitors chose to depict something other than this social reality? To instead create in images and prose, visions of an unspoilt world of beauty and innocence amidst unspoilt nature. A desperately sought Eden. A primitive fiction.

Our life is often characterised by mythologising the past, lamenting the present and worrying about the future. We have a tendency to think back to a golden age where society flourished in harmony with nature and life was simple, easy and authentic. But the reality is that there is no eden to return to, if ever there was one. Life is imperfect. A compromise. A collision of aspirations, dreams, fears amidst our daily reality.

Like many cultures Tahitians strive to integrate the narrative of their past with the invasion of global popular culture. The Tiki has become a brand, a logo or an icon for Tahiti, in the same way as Mickey Mouse acts like a global ambassador for the pervasive soft power of Disney and the American dream. Its iconography transcends borders and continents. TikiMiki represents this alliance between Primitive and popular culture.​

How does a culture thrive and evolve in the face of an ever changing world? Who defines what is authentic and inauthentic? If a culture ceases to evolve, is it alive? To these questions there are no obvious answers. This new series of work explores these themes. From global issues of overconsumption, issues of waste and landfill, the influence of America and global popular culture and lifestyle.

For the artist, there is a lesson in this. That we cannot return to the past, because the past is as fictional as the future. The paradise sought is to be found in the imperfection of our present. Cultures evolve, change and grow to reflect the present concerns, awareness and technology. It is not a closed book but an ever expanding story which repeatedly poses the question…

Where Do We Come From?  What Are We?  Where Are We Going? - Paul Gauguin

 © garthbowden 2019 

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