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.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Part of a show

Trust Waikato National Contemporary Art Award 2008
Curated and judged by Natasha Conland
Waikato Museum of Art and History Te Whare Taonga o Waikato
22 August -20 November 2008

It is the strangest of exhibitions this time round. In fact it is an anti-intelligence, anti-contemporary art exhibition. (As shrewd observers have always known.) Truly dumb - despite the indisputable erudition of its judge. Three of the thirty-three finalists are not even on display, and the artists’ statements are not in the hardcopy catalogue nor in the online one. They are the very thing you should be reading at home to whet your appetite for a visit.

The museum pretends it wants contemporary art lovers to flock to it, but by making the artists rent all the necessary gear for their projects themselves, it sends out the message it really only wants hangable canvases - only a narrow cross-section of contemporary art practice.

Think about the winner, the brilliant Patrick Lundberg. He normally makes site-specific works examining the exhibition history of institution walls by cutting away and removing paint, leaving a subtractive frame. The work can’t be transferred. Its meaning is particular to the physical placement and political history of the physical plane it is cut out of. So he won with a portable compromise. Great for him as fiscal encouragement, but the entered work doesn’t do him justice. (Like Ann Shelton two years ago, when you felt it was really unentered works that got her the prize.)

I think the overall quality is better than last year, but it is similar to what Leonhard Emmerling created with very little installation or moving image. So despite Conland being rigorous, oddly it has fallen flat, seeming slightly gormless and anal. But like last year, it’s very tastefully presented. But as good taste is the arch–enemy of art the pervading decorum screws the event up. It needs a lot more mayhem and vulgarity.

My six personal favourites were from Fiona Amundsen, Keila Martin, Marcus Williams & Susan Jowsey, Richard Maloy, Sam Rountree Williams and Tony Nicolls. Their works had nice muscular scale matched with intriguing ideas.

If you are passing through Hamilton on your way somewhere else, pop in and check this out, but don’t make a special pilgrimage.

(Above, unexhibited but picked works by ck reynolds, Dorothy Helyer and Emily Lane.)

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