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Imagining Oceania: contesting histories, creating futures

Weekend-long art history course

Short course

  • 13 October 2018, 10am — 5pm
  • 14 October 2018, 10am — 5pm
This event has now ended

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Paul Gauguin, Women of Tahiti, on the beach, 1891.

Oil on canvas. 69 x 90 cm. Musee d'Orsay, Paris, France / Bridgeman Images.

Join leading art historian Dr Kathryn Brown to explore the entangled narratives of Oceanic and European art, the legacies of colonialism and the breath-taking contemporary art of the Pacific Islands.

Recollecting his journey to Tahiti in 1930, Henri Matisse spoke of his desire to find “another space”, in which to develop “the objects of his dreams”. Many of the large-scale works he produced late in his career referenced the landscapes that he encountered during that trip and the sensation of ‘total ecstasy’ he felt when confronted by the corals, lagoons, tropical flora and marine life he found there.

For many European artists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Oceania was both an inspiration and an idealised space on which to project personal fantasies. Through the lens of masterpieces by Matisse, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keefe, Isamu Noguchi and the Dada poet Tristan Tzara, the first part of this weekend course examines the impact of Pacific Island art and landscapes on the European modernist imagination.

The course then turns to ways in which contemporary artists from the Pacific Islands critique these constructions and challenge the art-historical traditions within which the arts of Oceania have been categorised and analysed. Examining works by contemporary artists including Lisa Reihana, Yuki Kihara, Angela Tiatia, Michel Tuffery, Julia Mage’au Gray, John Pule and Sofia Tekela-Smith among others, we will discuss diverse forms of art production that confront colonial histories, identity and conflicting constructions of place.

This part of the course will also bring to the fore Oceania’s own modernist cultural history and critical self-fashioning. We will examine many of the creative tensions that Pacific Island artists have explored in their engagement with conceptions of the “contemporary”, “tradition” and “myth”.

The course concludes by considering the challenges that Western museums face when exhibiting artefacts that were collected during periods of Empire. Addressing cutting-edge debates in museum studies, we will examine some of the ways in which museums are confronting their own role in colonial histories and stimulating new dialogues about approaches to collecting, displaying, contextualising and repatriating cultural objects from around the world.

The course provides an ideal way to learn about and understand the influence of Oceanic art on seminal western artists, as well as the response of contemporary artists working in the Pacific Islands today.

● Fully booked

● Cancelled

  • 13 October 2018, 10am — 5pm
  • 14 October 2018, 10am — 5pm

Wolfson British Academy Room, 6 Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy of Arts

£420. Includes all materials, light refreshments at the beginning of each day and wine reception at the end of day one.