INTRODUCTION TO EXILES IN PARADISE, 14-28 NOVEMBER 2003
by Mahiriki Tangaroa
It was in April 2001 while viewing the masterpiece, ‘Tangaloa’ in a local private collection that I was first introduced to Mark Cross. Indeed this was an honorable occasion to meet a prominent New Zealand artist widely acclaimed for mastering the skill in depicting the landscape and human form. After a number of brief encounters we began to work on the idea of hosting a major show at the Cook Islands National Museum. It was with enduring determination, initiated by Cross, that in February 2002 the island came alive with what was the islands first major exhibition of fine art. Being a spectacular event, the exhibition featured major works from Cross, it also included the finely woven work of his talented wife Ahi Cross and the ’Tulana Mahu’ container, a collaborate installation, initiated by Cross during the late nineties featuring a handful of local Niuean artists. The exhibition of paintings by Cross spoke volumes on the art, people and landscape of Niue. Here the viewer was enticed into a world so cleverly constructed by the artist and by the end of the experience left to ponder the boundaries between what was real and what was a journey of the imagination. Cross’s work plays on the art of simulation, where he skillfully captures the senses with the ‘expected’ and with a twist reveals a truth we would rather not acknowledge. Like having made a big mistake he leaves the viewer in a state of disillusionment and uncertainty. With inconclusive results, the viewer is induced to revisit, decipher and seek confirmation. Whether it is the artist's intention or a mere reflection of life’s grand design, his statement speaks clearly of mankind’s impoverished endeavor to seek self assurance in what they believe. I wish to take the opportunity to acknowledge Mark for his 2002 Retrospective exhibition which aside from the visual intrigue the exhibition brought together a community, prompting interest and appreciation for the visual arts. Never before has an exhibition attracted such praise and attention from all sectors of the community. For those who would not have step foot into a gallery or museum space, this was their first time. Exiles in Paradise is a special occasion to celebrate the art of a remarkable artist. The exhibition is an opportunity to acknowledge his work and contributions, at the same time allowing an audience the chance to once again view a collection of stunning work before it should disappear into a prestigious international gallery or private collection.