A Night At The Gallery

published by Bren

October 7, 2022

I park the car. Look out the window. At the crowd.

A jolt of anxiety.

I hate these things.

No, I don’t.

Yes, I do.

I really don’t.

Yes, I really do.

Well, what are you going to do? Just drive back home and read all night? Again?

Live a little.

Besides, you told Mike you’re going to come.

I get out. It’s a standard Rarotonga night. Humid, warm, aromatic. As I cross the road I feel jitters as I get closer to the crowd. They’re all seated on the lawn, drinking, eating, listening to the band. I put on my extrovert face, get into character.

I really do hate these things.

I see Ox standing at the edge of the lawn. Away from everyone. Perfect.

“Hey, Ox.”

“Hey man!”

Ox is a guy I met at a beach bar one night. I see him around the island now and then.

Handshake, bro hug.

“How’s the night going?”

“Oh mate! We’re on the beers, live music, making friends!”

Sounds wonderful.

I walk over to the kitchen. Auntie is there. I never remember her name, so I just call her Auntie.

“Hi, Auntie.”

“Hey! You’re here!”

Yes I am.

This is Gallery Tavioni. Most people just know it as “Mike’s gallery”. I come here every Thursday for Maori class.

“Come on Saturday,” Mike had said to me after class. “It’s opening night, the new exhibition. Free food and drink. Will be lots of fun.”

Sure, I’ll be there.

It’s hard to say no to Mike.

The lawn is showered in Christmas lights. There’s fifty people, maybe. All sipping on booze. Band in full swing. I head towards the gallery, to get away from the everyone, more than anything. There’s far less people in there. And you don’t have to talk. Just look at paintings.

I step inside. The gallery is long and narrow. Chairs are lined down the middle. People are sitting and watching the walls, like they’re watching TV.

Kamil is inside. Of course he’s here. Good thing too, haven’t seen him in about a month.

“Hey stranger.”

“Hey! Come, come. I need your help.”

He pulls me to the far wall.

“What do you think of this one?”

I nod.

It’s cool.

Then I look closer. It’s a painting of a Yakuza, his tattoos lined with gemstones. Very intricate.

“You know what? It actually is cool. Very cool. Wow.”

I look at the tag.

Pascale Garnier Cowan. Yakuza. $3,500.

Kamil shows me another one, on the other side of the gallery. It’s a skull with a bandana, the face tattooed with flowers and waves and animals.

I admire it for a moment.

“Dude … I love it. This is killer.”

“But I’ll show you which one I really want,” he smiles.

He drags me to the middle of the gallery. There’s a small painting of two sea horses. Then beside it, another painting of one sea horse.

“I can’t decide,” he says. “What do you think, that one, or that one?”

I point to the solo sea horse.

That one.

“Hmmm,” he hums. “I like the other one. Though I feel like the drawings are a bit naiive. But the technique … is amazing.”

I shrug, and don’t say anything. I don’t know what a naiive drawing looks like. And don’t know what amazing technique looks like either.

Mike is sitting in the middle of the gallery, in front of the flagship piece, a bunch of people around him. Mike is a smiley, bold grandfather with a booming voice and a fantastic head of long white hair. I go rest a hand on his shoulder. He turns around.

“Kia orana, koe.”

“Hey, Mike.”

“So, who’s this artist,” I ask. “Pascale?”

He points behind me.

She’s singing.


I look out onto the lawn, see her fronting the band.

I was thinking Pascale was a guy’s name.

On the wall I see a short write up about her, the exhibition. I walk over. It’s a small photo, lots of words.

“I travelled the world …

Decades …

Gathered all the treasures my eyes could hold …

My life was rich …

I was diagnosed with an illness …

I was in a nightmare …

I struggled with the terrible side effects of treatment …

I needed something positive …

I started to paint …

I threw colours on a canvas …

All the beautiful things I pictured in my mind …

The softest therapy I’ve known …

It healed me from the inside …”

My heart jolts.

I can finish her sentences before I read them.

Her story is my story.

I walk a full lap of the gallery alone. The first section is all skulls. Ten, twenty. The next section is nature. Then the ocean. Then the world.

I admire them all, and there’s a few pieces that I love. But by the end I already know. There’s one, that needs to belong to me.

Red. Always red.

Gianni wanders by. Another familiar face. I bump into him nearly every week, in some restaurant or another. We shake hands. He’s in a suit. Madness. It’s thirty degrees in here.

He starts telling me about the exhibition.

“We had that hanging in our kitchen,” he says, pointing. “That one was in my office. That one was my favourite.”

“Wait. Pascale is your wife?!”

He grins.

He points to the turtle painting.

“That one, I always loved that one. I’ll tell you the amazing thing about art,” he says. “It’s like love. You don’t need to think. You just look, and within a split second it’s either, I feel nothing, or I feel everything.”

No kidding.

He wanders off.

I sit. Stare up at the canvases in front of me.

Now I know why they’ve put chairs down the middle, from wall to wall. Because after you’ve seen everything, you just want to sit down, digest it all.

Kamil finds me.

“Anything you like?”

I point to the red face on the far wall.

“How much is it?”

I tell him.

“Well. It’s amazing. You should get it. Will be something to remind you, of your time on Rarotonga.”

Of course, I don’t need anything to remind me. What this island has given me. Rarotonga has become a small miracle in my story. I already know I’ll take this island with me everywhere, forever.

I go outside to the food table. I fill a plate with fruits. Watermelon, pineapple, papaya. I sit out on the lawn, watch Pascale sing for a while.

I guess I don’t hate these things. At least not all the time.

After I’ve had my moment, I go back inside and sit down, stare at my painting from across the room. Gina is in the chair beside me. Gina is Mike’s niece, I think. She does all his admin stuff. She’s the person I called to sign up for Maori lessons.

“How’s class?” she asks.

I shrug.

“It’s good.”

“You’re his favourite student, you know.”


“He always tells me about you. That guy. I really like that guy. Very smart. Always asks lots of questions. Very good questions.


“See anything you like?”

I point to the red.

“Ahh,” she nods. “Those ones, she painted those while going through chemo, after she lost her hair. Everything on that wall – skinny faces, no hair.”

Skinny face. No hair. Red.

Yeah. Been there.

I think about buying it. I don’t know. Then I think about leaving the island without it, and that’s when I do know. There’s no way. It’s mine. I have to take it.

I go and find Shane, the host. He’s sitting in the middle.

He grins at me.

“How’s it going?”

“That one,” I say, pointing to the far wall.

“The red one?”

“Yeah. I’ll take it.”

“Nice choice.”

He walks me over to it, takes down my details.

Hands me the red dot sticker.

“Here you go.”

I stick it on the price tag.


He holds his hand out.


I go sit back down. Gina is beside me.

“I’m curious,” she says. “Why that one?”

We both look at it.

I tell her the story.

“I travelled the world …

Gathered all the treasures my eyes could hold …

My life was rich …

I was diagnosed with an illness …

I was in a nightmare …

I struggled with the terrible side effects of treatment …

I needed something positive …

I tell her about red.

Her eyes are wide open.

“Wow,” she says. “That is just … wow.”

“I should get a photo with her before I go.”

“Aboslutely! I’ll ask her for you, when she’s done singing.”

The gallery is emptying out. Just a few of us now. Everyone is on the lawn, eating, drinking, dragging out the last hours of their Saturday.

On the far end is a girl, scanning all the paintings with a gadget.

I walk over.

“Got a favourite?”

She turns around, smiles, points to the far wall.

“That one. The blue and orange.”

It’s the fish. Yes, many of us liked the fish.

I nod with approval.

Good choice.

I sit down.

She sits beside me.

“What about you?”

I point to the red, and she looks over at it.

“Ah, nice! Someone’s bought it, though.”


I point to her hands.

“What’s that scanner thing you got?”

“Oh, my camera.”

She pulls it out, shows it to me.

“I work for the news.”

“Ahhhh. And this is today’s big story?”

She laughs.


We sit there and talk, staring at the wall. First about the paintings in front of us. Did you see that one had a cat on the forehead? Hey, there’s butterflies on that one. Then about the island. The news. My broken shoulder. Her broken ankle. Ten minutes, twenty, thirty. An hour. Shane starts stacking the chairs. The band finishes.

“I think we better go.”


Gina catches me as we exit.

“Your photo!”

She brings Pascale over.

“This is Brendan,” she says. “He’d love a photo.”

We go back into the gallery. Pull the red off the wall. Photos, photos. Then Pascale walks me around the gallery.

“I painted these during chemo. You can see here, I wore bandanas for a while. Then wigs. Then I just let myself be free.”

As we walk, I tell her my story. I tell her why I chose the red. Her eyes soften.

“So that’s why this speaks to you.”

We keep walking.

“How did you learn to paint?”

“I didn’t! I just did it. I never once thought I would sell any of these.”

She stops at the dragon painting. Explains to me how she did the colours on the scales, the gems, the patterns. All the things we’d never notice on our own.

We get to the end.

“Congratulations,” I tell her. “On everything.”

“And you.”

We hug.

She disappears back to the crowd outside.

I say bye to Gina. Shane. Mike. Auntie. News girl.

As I drive home on the empty and silent Rarotonga road, I smile. My soul is full.

One more night to remember on this magical island.

Heading to Rarotonga? Check out my accommodation guide here!

Loved this? Spread the word

You might also like:

Share your thoughts!

Your email address will not be published. 

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}


My newsletter includes exclusive stories, updates, giveaways and more. 100% free. 

Zero spam. Unsubscribe anytime.