Andy Leleisi’uao, Mahiriki Tangaroa, Reuben Paterson, Lucas Grogan, Mark Cross
The Big Blue
Dec 1 2018 – Jan 15, 2019

Opening Saturday 1 December with CITC Liquor.

Moana and Rangi. Ocean and sky. There is no escaping the blueness of the Cook Islands. The Big Blue, a group exhibition at Bergman Gallery, captures what blue can be, the ever present hue and its many faces.

“The concept for the show came from Andy Leleisi’uao’s Harmonic Island five panel work which is predominantly blue,” says Ben Bergman, Director of Bergman Gallery. “I was very taken with the colour and it occurred to me that I could find other blue works to show around it – The Big Blue.”

Leleisi’uao, a South Auckland based artist, is one of five artists represented by the gallery. Winner of the 2017 Paramount Wallace Art Award, his highly detailed work featured in a solo show earlier this year at Bergman Gallery, as well as part of  the group show MPA#1 in October.

“I had two beautiful blue works by Reuben Paterson including Far / Nearer that hadn’t been seen in an exhibition before,” adds Bergman. “I asked Mahiriki Tangaroa to participate with a blue work, not her usual colour. Then Lucas Grogan dropped into my headspace as he works in predominately blue/white. And Mark Cross’s blue work, Approaching Cyan, has always been a favourite.”

An unofficial show in the gallery’s calendar, the opening was a relaxed event for sponsors and long term clients – time and space to absorb the blueness of leading Pacific artists. Inside the gallery there is the immediate glitter of You and I Can Change the World, flowers and foliage on a blue background, by Paterson. Convinced by the vitality of Paterson’s work from his first encounter in Auckland in 2003, Bergman invited Paterson to be the Artist in Residence at Bergman Gallery in 2010. As an artist represented by the gallery his work has been shown ever since, most recently in 2017 alongside tivaivai artist Tungane Broadbent and in MPA#1.

Tangaroa created her work specifically for this show, adding soft blues to her distinctive style, the artist now painting full time in the studio upstairs at The Print Room. Cross’s work dates back to 2008, an indication of his long relationship with the gallery including recent work in MPA#1. Then there is the work of Lucas Grogan, new to the Cook Islands and Bergman Gallery but not to the contemporary art world. “I met Lucas at Sydney Contemporary two years ago,” says Bergman. “I first saw his work there, and was immediately taken with his audacity, wit and unapologetic approach. I was then fortunate enough to encounter him in person a day later.” Bergman reached out to the artist and Grogan’s work, Good Luck With That, became a part of The Big Blue.

“I’m a big fan of Andy Leleisi’uao so I of course said yes,” says Lucas. “I’ve never been part of a show like this, so I’m stoked. I am really humbled to be included amongst such brilliant South Pacific artists.” Grogan’s inclusion in The Big Blue seems obvious when you encounter the predominance of blue in his work. Good Luck With That, combines shades of blue with white and black, hypnotic lines and patterns with a central blue rose, the artists favourite motif at the moment.

“The monotone nature of my work started as a frugal art student only being able to purchase limited quantities of paint,” says Grogan. “And truth be told I’m not a big fan of huge amounts of different colours competing in a single work – rather I’m interested in pattern and form and a limited palette enhances this focus. That being said I love the universality of blue and the historical and cultural usages of it. And my eyes are blue.” This pattern and form can be found in all of Grogan’s work, from sculptures to large scale murals in central Melbourne, and quilts that stretch all boundaries of traditional quilting. Many of his pieces include text – thoughts and ideas to challenge the viewer.

“I had been distilling this idea of combining my quilting practice into my canvas work using acrylics and enamels to simulate the illusion of fabric,” says Grogan. “Also structuring the work to mimic a religious-like alter which would eventually hold some relic or message.” “I write and read a lot of poetry, and when I do use text in my work I labour over what exactly to put in. They operate as micro poems of uncertain intent and tone. Good Luck With That can be read as though I’m saying this to the viewer, or the viewer is saying this to me. It could be either facetious or optimistic – almost a little prayer and/or a curse.” Rachel Smith.

Photos: Turama Photography.