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, November 23, 2008

Inebriated power poles

Frank Breuer: Ascetic Monumentality
McNamara Gallery, Whanganui
1 November - 29 November 2008

At the moment in Whanganui Paul McNamara is showing in his unusual, domestic feeling gallery - converted from a doctor’s surgery that was converted from a bungalow - two shows: Frank Breuer and Fiona Amundsen, in adjacent rooms. Amundsen’s is very similar to her recent show at Gus Fisher. Breuer has never shown in Aotearoa before. Both are big admirers of the German photo-conceptualists, Bernd and Hilla Becher, famous in the sixties for their documentation of cooling towers. Breuer was one of their last students.

Breuer’s images are slightly smaller than Amundsen’s; more vertical in format. Their subject matter is power poles, centrally positioned each time and often flanked by large brick buildings in which the great acuity of detail allows you to scrutinize each brick, if you so desire.

Amundsen’s images are very strictly controlled, but Breuer’s images (illustrated above) are even more austere, particularly with his more limited colour range. Like her he favours overcast skies, but usually he has pale dusty grey streets as well. There is no lush greenery, or icy cool colouration.

I don’t think it is intended but I find some of these power poles incredibly amusing. They have an anthropomorphic quality, where they take on human personalities. Some are untidy, or tilted, and look as if they are about to topple over like staggering drunkards. Others are formal, straight and prim, like military officers standing in line at attention.

Breuer’s images are also more obviously beautiful than Amundsen’s. There is a hint of a constructivist aesthetic about them (with their linear components and warm hues) and less process driven. Both artists make wonderful photographs and it is terrific that McNamara has introduced Breuer and his work (he has been on a speaking tour) to New Zealand audiences.

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