Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Inimitable Cry Slur

Now showing Fruit Cake Smothered With Icing Sugar: Tom Kreisler at ARTSPACE, Auckland (10 November – 15 December 2007).

Painting shows at ARTSPACE are extremely rare – for good reason. They are relatively easy to sell and there are lots of dealer galleries available to present them to a consistently enthusiastic market. The last painting show I saw here was John Reynolds’, and that was just over two Walters Prizes ago. This exhibition of works by Tom Kreisler (1938-2002) is a much smaller version of the big survey Aaron Kreisler did of his dad’s work in March at the Govett-Brewster. This ARTSPACE selection will be travelling to Wellington (the Adam), Rotorua and Dunedin.

The pruned down version is very focussed. It leans towards the later roughly painted, cardboard works, with fewer of the humorous elegant stained canvases that made Kreisler well known in the mid eighties. Both types feature the artist’s witty wordplay, but the cardboard paintings often had a rueful bitterness that at times verged on a seething fury about the world and the people in it. The curator has taken many of the scrappy cardboard works out of the vitrines and put them on the wall. Some have even been framed. Often the small notebooks in the vitrines are shown open with early sketches positioned opposite the finished canvas work on the wall.

The more user-friendly canvas works - in comparison to the earlier bigger exhibition – are often in each series represented by one or two works. The show is a very satisfying introduction to this artist’s method of thinking and makes his work less sweet overall than what was assumed ten or twelve years ago when he was known solely for his canvas paintings. It reveals Kreisler to be an amazingly complicated painter in his moods and thinking patterns, approach to language and studio materials. His use of sticky tape for example was outrageous in its casualness, and his attitudes to McCahon and landscape painting fascinating in their complex contradictions.

This carefully layered and meticulously organised show is a great chance for Aucklanders to discover a talent that many New Plymouth and Christchurch art lovers have known about for a long time. A real treat.

Images top to bottom: A brush with death, acrylic on canvas,2001; Budgie Latch, oil and tape on board, 1997; Flying from Hong Kong to Ireland, acrylic on canvas ,1983

No comments: