Seas unite as well as divide; they are agents of communication and contact, as much as bulwarks and barriers. The great Pacific Ocean – covering over a third of the globe’s surface – confirms the point. It is home to myriad peoples, to tiny islands, scattered archipelagos, and one great southern continent: Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia and Australasia. It reaches from the vast deserts of central Australia to the volcanoes of Hawaii; from the mountain ranges of New Zealand to the river valleys of Papua New Guinea. The strong and varied cultures of these disparate lands are wonderfully distinct, yet shot through with common concerns, with moments of shared iconography, and with subtly complimentary aesthetics.
OCEANIC explores the area’s rich cultural heritage through paintings, prints, sculptures, textiles, tapa cloths, basket-works and carvings by contemporary indigenous artists from across its breadth. Works that in their different ways assert the primacy of place, the integration of land and water, past and present, the spiritual and the temporal.
Amongst the highlights of the show are paintings by Aboriginal desert-artist Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri (1932-2002) and the Papua New Guinean painter Mathias Kauage (1944-2003); prints by Dennis Nona (Torres Strait Islands) and John Pule (New Zealand); carvings from the Sepik River and basket-work from Arnhem Land.