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.

Monday, June 16, 2008

And Time stood still

On Show: 2008
Bath St Gallery
12 June - 5 July 2008

As photography shows go, this is a very odd exhibition organised by the journal Photoforum, because although there is some wonderful work included – especially by Darren Glass and Joyce Campbell – it gives a staid and limited notion of what photographic practice can be.

A lot of the work here could have come straight out of The Active Eye, a New Zealand photography survey exhibition that toured this country in 1975. A huge amount of change within the medium has occurred since then, but apart from the colour you wouldn’t think so from this show. There is no digitally modified photography (eg. Jae Hoon Lee, Gavin Hipkins, Megan Jenkinson), no extravagant props (eg Boyd Webb, Christine Webster), no conceptual adventurousness (eg.Layla Rudneva–Mackay).

Instead it usually dwells on landscape and the prosaic urban, subject-matter now that is pretty tiresome. Basically documentary in focus, it fixates on the passing of time and loss of buildings, individuals and communities. Nothing wrong with that in small doses, but it is restricted.

Yet once you understand that New Zealand photography is a hell of a lot wider in scope than this small cross-section, then checking out these 14 artists is fun. Glass and Campbell, as I’ve indicated, make extraordinary photographs and their work here is better than what is included in Close-Up at the Gus Fisher (tastier images for Glass, more intimate scale for Campbell). David Cook’s night-time colour shots have a subtle hallucinatory quality caused by the chromatic wavelength of the lighting, and Robyn Hoonhout’s glowing lightboxes depicting unclothed elderly women are beautiful and courageous (from the models’ viewpoint).

There are other wonderful images. Bruce Connew’s prismatic photographs are intriguing with their vaguely pointillist hazy colour, and Gary Blackman’s droll ‘Tiger Chair at Piano Farm,Taieri’ conjures up pictures of circuses and sleeping domestic felines.

There is some excellent work here, but overall not as exciting as it should and could be.

Images (ascending from bottom) from Darren Glass, Gary Blackman, David Cook, Bruce Connew,Robyn Hoonhout, Joyce Campbell

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