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, October 1, 2008


Paul Hartigan: Chromophobia
17 September - 12 October 2008

Named after David Bachelor’s famous little book on the politics of colour, this is the first Hartigan solo show in Auckland for some time, and offers three varieties of work, all from recent projects shown out of town: four neon wall sculptures (‘Revolutions’); five digitally tweaked photographs printed on canvas (H-types); six plastic toy figures photographed and enlarged.

The Revolutions intrigue with their swirling spirals of knotted light, shiny circular plates, and muted reflections. As turning vectors, the glowing glass cords are a lot more complex than you initially realise, sometimes doubling back or with gaps, often with more pieces of tube or more colours than readily apparent. Often Hartigan creates counter-spirals by having thin black wiring wrapped around the tube ends. Or striations made on the pigment inside the glass tube. The smallest detail has been thoroughly considered.

The H-types combine painting, photography, sculpture and prints by printing images from Hartigan’s own archives of eighties Auckland signage, blending melancholic loss with a mood of bleached exuberant hue. Neon is now disappearing from our urban nightscapes but these treatments get reabsorbed to be seen indoors by day. Being stretched on canvas they become a strange variety of painting – but one printed from digital files.

Hartigan also has some coloured Ultrachromes of little plastic coloured figures from the early nineteenth century, that look like they are from a history board game or – as in France – a cake. Under glass the solidity of these boxed glowing plastic colonial and Maori personalities is a distraction. They look too small and too heavy with their black frames. They would work better as vertical wall hangings like say, Christine Webster’s photographs.

Of the three genres, the physicality of the Revolutions provides the most visceral excitement. The turning, reflected twists of assorted chroma (selected by referencing the named artists whose works so inspired) when brought indoors, introduce an abstract but complex optical mix into each domestic setting.

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