Gauguin’s ambivalent identification with and distancing from his ‘native’ subjects is analysed by an artist and a group of scholars from the areas of art history, anthropology and cultural theory in light of current post colonial thought.

Myths of the Other - Part 1

Welcome: Gabriela Salgado, Curator of Public Programmes at Tate Modern

Session one chaired by Belinda Thomson, Curator of Gauguin: Maker of Myth

Tamar Garb: Thinking about Gauguin Now

The paper raises questions about what it is to mount an exhibition and think about Gauguin at this time. After the post colonial and feminist critiques of the 80s and 90s designated Gauguin as a ‘primitivist bad boy’, how might we rethink his practice now? Drawing on the writing of the Martiniquan writer Edouard Glissant, I will think about both Gauguin’s ignorance as a counter-intuitive producer of knowledge which takes us out of our comfort zones, both philosophically and aesthetically.

Nicholas Thomas: Gauguin, Modernity and Myth in Oceania

The Oceania that Gauguin encountered was a modern world, in manifold senses that are partially acknowledged in the artist’s Polynesian oeuvre, and in tension with his renown or notoriety, as primitivist mythmaker. This presentation recontextualizes Gauguin within late 19th cultural exchanges, and argues that those exchanges, rather than the success or failure of any particular artist, represent a necessary starting point for a genuinely postcolonial cultural history.

Discussion chaired by Belinda Thomson

Myths of the Other - Part 2

Session two chaired by Gabriela Salgado

Prof. Rod Edmond: Gauguin’s Thresholds

The myths of otherness in Gauguin’s work were a contradictory but sustained endeavour to mediate between European and non-European worlds, to find or create similarity as well as difference. The paper explores this theme particularly in relation to liminal figures and scenes in Gauguin’s writing and painting.

Myths of the Other - Part 3

Hew Locke

Growing up in Guyana, Locke developed a fascination with the tropical landscape and the overlooked histories of the Amerindians he was familiar with. This made him look at Gauguin as the one European artist capable of conveying the relationship with others and unveil processes of exoticisation in his art. By means of faking exotica and the incorporation a wide variety of cultural references, Hew Locke’s work is anchored in questions of power, violence and colonial relations.

Discussion chaired by Gabriela Salgado.

Notions of exoticism and fantasy saturate Paul Gauguin’s paintings. After sailing forth in 1887 to explore French colonial territories in search for a mythic tropical paradise, the depiction of the people encountered in Martinique and the South Pacific remain controversial today.

Speakers include Tamar Garb, Nicholas Thomas, Rod Edmond and Hew Locke.