Barry Dabb

In 1998 after a family visit to the Cook Islands Barry was struck by various processes of assimilation that had infiltrated the Rarotongan way of life and its art forms. Viewing an exhibition entitled Paringa Ou at the Cook Islands National Museum, Barry found that the exhibitors were all New Zealand residents, four of whom he had taught at Waiariki. Following this initial encounter Barry’s work has continued to be influenced by his travels throughout Polynesia.

These images are from photographs taken on site and developed in the studio. The naturalistic treatment of colour and light as a physical painting process both celebrates the life and richness of these environments and alludes to the passage of time. Specifically, the development and adjustment of the Island Nations these gardens represent. While the lush, verdant foliage may be seen to pay homage to a ‘natural wild’ the presence of species that are often not Indigenous to a particular place allows for a critical engagement with issues of colonisation and cultural assimilation.

The works comprising the series Victoria’s Garden have evolved since 2009 from two different garden settings owned by the same Rarotongan family. Victoria is a floral artist producing work from her own nursery and family land holdings. The striking nature of the colour combinations are the result of unique grafting processes refined by Victoria’s family in recent years. In painting these gardens Barry pays homage to Victoria’s outstanding design capabilities, and her family’s willingness to share their work with him.

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