‘Work here and enjoy living here’

Sunday 28 March 2021 | Written by Caleb Fotheringham | Published in Art, Features

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‘Work here and enjoy living here’
Artist Joan Gragg stands in front of her latest collection, “Underneath the Mango Tree” – BERGMAN GALLERY

Artist Joan Gragg reveals the beauty of everyday life in the Cook Islands in her latest collection of paintings.

Joan Gragg’s work depicts the joy in familiar, and perhaps to some even mundane moments of normal life.

The well-known artist’s latest collection, “Underneath the Mango Tree” is no different. This time she depicts the ordinary beauty of mango trees.

“I hope people will see how beautiful they are,” Gragg says. “And the only way people can see that is for someone to say, ‘have you noticed.’”

She says the trees play an important role in life here. “When I see a mango tree, I see a family there. I see all sorts of things happening.”

The collection is nostalgic and at least partially reflects on a simpler time.

Gragg says today people are more inclined to chop down their mango trees because they don’t want to pick up leaves or are concerned about the risk of keeping them in cyclone season.

But she says they played a significant role in the past, “it’s very much what we experienced growing up as children … being around mango trees, climbing mango trees, picking mangos of the tree, eating and sharing it.”

Gragg remembers while growing up on Fridays, her family went to the pictures, on Saturdays, they did the shopping, and children would help by doing jobs throughout the week.

“A lot of things have changed, the feeling is still there, but the technology age has changed everything.

“When we were kids, we never had a car, my dad never wanted us to have a car because he wanted us to notice what was in season. So we walked everywhere and we knew where all the fruit trees were.

“It was very much a part of my growing up, noticing what was around, what the seasons were doing, what the tide was doing, what the mountains were doing.”

Gragg’s collection was displayed on Wednesday, March 24 at Bergman Gallery and was her first solo show in 10 years.

Visitors to the exhibition flowed from piece to piece pointing to each other familiar scenes in her paintings.

“I try to do scenes that local people can recognise,” Gragg says.  She hopes more people will be able to see that living in the Cook Islands is a joyful existence.

“My dad was English and he came here in 1947 and he always said to us as children, don’t go and live somewhere else, work so you can earn lots of money and come back here for a three-week holiday. Work here and enjoy living here.”