Acclaimed contemporary artist duo Nashashibi / Skaer respond to Paul Gauguin’s depiction of Tahitian women, retracing the artist’s footsteps to French Polynesia.
Contemporary British artists Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer have been making collaborative work since 2005. Individually nominated for the Turner Prize – and with Nashashibi the first woman to win the Beck’s Futures prize in 2003 – the duo’s latest project saw them travelling to Tahiti in the footsteps of French post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin (1848-1903). Nashashibi / Skaer at Tate St Ives features the ambitious 16mm film that resulted.
Titled Why Are You Angry?, after Gauguin’s 1896 painting No te aha oe riri (Why Are You Angry?), the footage stages gestures from the work, in which a single figure is seen to be disengaged from the rest of a group. Gauguin’s interrogative title prompts the viewer to search for meaning in the piece – and yet straightforward interpretation remains elusive. Similarly, Nashashibi and Skaer open up questions surrounding the way that foreign women and colonised land can be exoticised in art.
Exploring the shortcomings and possibilities involved in imagining women through Gauguin’s gaze, Why Are You Angry? features both choreographed and informal footage, with Tahitian women seen outside their homes, at work, and in the artists’ rented apartment.
The film is displayed alongside Gauguin’s own depiction of the tropics, as well as those of his artistic predecessors – including Edward Gennys Fanshawe, who accompanied Captain Cook to the South Pacific.