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.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Taste that Ear

Tim Hawkinson: Scout
Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
8 April – 16 May 2008

Californian sculptor Tim Hawkinson is one of those artists who manages to mix wildly inventive ideas with dazzling technical facility. (A little like say Tom Friedman for example, where you are constantly surprised by new uses found for old materials. Though Hawkinson is much more surreal) His Gow Langsford show has some intriguing and very unusual works in the front gallery - a couple of fizzers there as well - but also some knockouts in the gallery office, out the back.

Hawkinson’s title work, Scout, is based on a well-known diagram that scientists use when talking about the relationship between parts of the brain and muscular limb/organ co-ordination. It shows a cross-section of the cerebral cortex with pertinent body parts juxtaposed along the brains contours, their relative size distorted to match the surface area that neurologically connects with them. Hawkinson has made an amusing standing figure of the assembled parts, retaining the enlarged proportions of the drawing but clothing it in a fringed buckskin outfit all made from carefully cut, crumpled and stitched, used packing card.

This welcoming figure represents the homunculus, the little man in the brain who controls, feels and drives the bigger body. This version is headless, with a huge testicle and hands, implying a brainless but libido driven personality. Having no brain, considering the work’s conceptual origins, is a great joke. It is bit like a Golem that has escaped its creator.

The other major work is Deposition, a whistle playing tree. It has a rattly motorised bead-lined belt that moves the piston in a penny whistle so it plays a tune. The necessary compressed air is pumped up from below through plastic tubing embedded in the bark-stripped trunk and branches.

The two other large works in the front space are holistic drawings. One is a giant image of a foot made of silver quilted polyester, the other is a honey-comb made of Styrofoam and foil. Though big, these are understated and so subtle they end up being anti-climactic.

The real stunners, as I’ve said, are in the office. There you can see two sculptural collages made of large coloured photographs of human body parts - notably an ear and a tongue. They are a sort of combination of Ava Seymour and Lee Bonticou, and wonderfully inventive as reliefs. As photographs wrapped around moulded Styrofoam, these images really engage. Creepy and mesmerising, they are the best things in the exhibition.

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