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.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Adults beware

Nicky Hoberman
Gow Langsford
26 August - 12 September 2008

When I first glanced through the GL window at this show I thought Hoberman’s very large paintings were related to the photographs of children watching telly that Wolfram Hahn presented at Starkwhite recently. Similar intensity I thought.

Yes and no. Similar blotchy skins and inscrutable gaze, but Hoberman’s brats are basically about malevolence. There is a demonic undercurrent to this work, torturing cats by chucking them in the air so they writhe and arch. Sinister but kind of silly too. The works are not psychologically heavy or even that clever. Slightly naff in fact. The artist tries hard but these kids aren’t really scary. Michael Smither’s children on the other hand, are. Their teeth seriously alarm.

The relationship these kiddiewinks have with the animals is a curious question. Are the creatures tribal talismans, as in family members metamorphosized. Are they cute so they can have horrid things done to them in some anticipated narrative we are yet to be told? Perhaps they are there to make the children themselves look more feral?

Hoberman works best with single children as sitters. The bigger paintings get cluttered causing the psychic intensity gets dissipated. The single subjects glower effectively. You don’t want to get too close. They might have knives hidden nearby.

So what is the artist trying to do? I suspect she really hates all such rug rats and is trying to encourage her audience to use birth control. She is probably a mother who at some point realised she had made a big mistake, and wants to warn others. These paintings are profoundly community-minded.

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