A South Pacific Scene
In the heart of the South Pacific, a new artists’ space is making waves, promising an interactive experience for the true art aficionado
Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?
They’re a series of questions you may have asked yourself more than a few times in your life. They’re also the title of one of Paul Gauguin’s most famous masterpieces. Created in 1898, the artwork to which these words are assigned reflects the artist’s two great desires—achieving simplicity and abandoning convention.
Gauguin lived a life that was indicative of these ideals. He is markedly known for retreating from a drab career in French finance to paint full time on the shores of Tahiti’s Punaauia region—but why?
The beloved post-impressionist knew one thing—artifice often ends where inspiration begins. It just so happened that, for Gauguin, inspi- ration came in the middle of the South Pacific, thousands of miles from his homeland.
So it should seem as no surprise that today there’s a vibrant international art scene taking root in, of all places, a luxury resort on the Society Islands—very near the spot Gauguin turned to for his own artistic spark.
Gauguin certainly wouldn’t be confronted with the “artificial and conventional” (which he so despised) here. Housed on the top floor of a uniquelyTahitian wood structure of over one hundred forty rooms and bungalows, “L’Atelier” (or “The Studio”) overlooks the sumptuous sandy- bottomed pool and aquatinted lagoon of Le Méridien Tahiti.
Tahiti is a place where the locals speak their native tongue just as they speak their French, one of the only regions in the world where colonialists did not incite revolution or impose conquest. In what many may consider unique, the French and Tahitian experience has been one of moderate, peaceful assimilation.Tahitians still greatly out-number their French compatriots, but they all share one thing in common: a great love of natural beauty, culture, and history. As a result, their artwork is a reflection of purity and exoticism.
Proudly featuring contemporary artists from across the islands and around the world, L’Atelier is perfectly integrated into the luxuriant vegetation on the island and reflects Le Méridien’s passion for supporting local culture while offering guests a unique and interactive artistic experience.
Recent L’Atelier artists-in-residence include the likes of Jean Achille, a Papeete native who began working modeling clay and producing pieces that, after being fired at 1000 degrees, mimic the appearance of aged bronze. He draws inspiration from his roots and the Polynesian culture, giving life to powerful characters in full action.
Another artist housed at Le Méridien Tahiti, Gerald Gaillard is a contemporary professional painter who exhibited for the first time at the age of twenty-two.
During the last 25 years, his artistic talent has been recognized throughout Africa and South America as he combines different techniques (oil, acrylic, pastel, and charcoal) while, at the same time, respecting the individuality of each material.
And then there’s Nicolas Caubarrere, L’Atelier’s unofficial maritime artist-in-residence. Born and raised near the ocean, he’s been painting seascapes and waves since he was a child and star ted par ticipating in exhibitions when he was 20.
At the age of 26, he founded his own gallery in Uruguay called ̈Atelier de La Barra ̈, named after the seaside resort in Uruguay where the gallery is settled. In 2003, he started showing his work in California—at the Palm Springs Art Fair, La Quinta Art Festival, and Laguna Beach’s Joseph Wise Gallery.
He participated in the Haleiwa Art Festival and started exhibiting at Island Art Galleries, which has represented his work in Hawaii since 2004. Shortly thereafter, he was invited to become a member of the Association of Hawaiian Artists (AHA).
Caubarrere’s secret? He paints what he lives. When a place inspires him, he settles there, he meets the people, he enjoys the environment and surfs its ocean.This merge of experiences is what he transmits in his work as he stamps his experience on a canvas and turns it into art.
Additionally, the work of L’Atelier artist Gabrielle Jones has been increasingly recognized for the originality and sensitivity that she brings to her landscapes. She has been described by the eminent artist Charles Blackman as“… full of shining light, radiant…[she] lets the inner things—her soul—come into her paintings [and] evokes feelings from the viewer.”
Since graduating in 2003 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the National Art School Sydney, Jones has won the Brentwood Acquisitive, the ANU Tanner Lecture series, and the Northbridge Art Prizes.
“My work results from direct observation and immersion in the landscape…the structure of an environment has been internalized, producing half-remembered, dream-like views that represent a ‘landscape essence’ rather than a specific place,” she explains.“The scenes depicted in my paintings are all imagined; they start in concrete reality but grow and change as the painting—the object— asserts itself in the same way nature does.”
Unlike mere gallery spaces, L’Atelier draws creative guests to its exhibitions as well as the artists themselves. An inviting setting for lectures, art workshops and, of course, cocktail-fueled openings, the open air space provides island inspiration along with fresh opportunities to peruse contemporary works of art—including paintings, pottery, photography, sculpture and jewelry. Guests can not only learn the techniques and experience the creativity of impassioned artists firsthand, but can also produce their very own original artworks to take home across the seas.
Pictured: L’Atelier guests and artists indulge their creative impulses. Courtesy of Le Méridien Tahiti.