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, December 10, 2008

Twenty-three in the Bath

Group Show: December exhibition
Bath St
2 December - 20 December 2008

Christmas stock shows, whilst they can be irritatingly trivial if the works seem like dinky trinkets, are also a good way to surveying a gallery proprietor’s taste. They give you a chance to see if there is a pattern or consistency. What makes them tick? What aesthetically or conceptually pushes their buttons? They might even avoid consistency.

This Bath St show is spread out on the walls of the large L-shaped room so the twenty-three artists don’t get in each other’s way. Even small sculpture is on the walls.

A cursory glance indicates that there are some formal and stylistic groupings that link some of the artists and works together. Circular wheel forms – for example - are found in Louise Purvis and Robert Jahnke works. In painting also, overlapping and undulating net forms are seen in Katie Thomas and Kathryn Stevens. Or pressuring shape with contour-edge or line in Leon van den Eijkel and James Ross.

If I could scurry into the gallery in the dead of night with a suitcase and help myself, the works I’d pinch would be the gorgeous Denys Watkins’ Indian works on paper and Katie Thomas’ two fascinating ‘net’ paintings. And I’d probably risk a hernia by also grabbing Bob Jahnke’s wonderful 'crayfish pot' made of corten steel.

I’d be tempted by the several mesmerising drawing/photographic hybrids in this show: works of ink on photographs by James Robinson (for him subdued and restrained); a photochemical drawing by Grant Beran; and surrealist photographs by Tanja Nola.

There is plenty to think about here. Peter Gibson Smith’s shaped panels use intersecting planes in a manner related to the drawings of Georgie Hill (at Ivan Anthony), but with a delicate scrubbed coloration that avoids intensity, using modelled forms, not negative shapes.

There are also Anna Eggert’s intriguing sets of common objects covered by wound-on data cable. The effect of repeated tiny horizontal lines creates shifting moirelike patterns, unpredictable rhythms and curious optical blendings.

Eggert is an Australian artist, as is Jonathan Jones, previously shown here in the Jim Vivieaere curated exhibition Good Company Flash Lights. He now presents shelves holding wiping sponges. On these he has placed aboriginal motifs that look like bark painting patterns, and which also seem connected to Jasper Johns’ famous ‘flagstone’ paintings. The sponge serves perhaps as a clever post-colonial metaphor, the wiping away of one culture maybe to superimpose another.

This is a good exhibition to leisurely ponder over. It has an enjoyable diversity.

Descending from top to bottom, images are of works by Katie Thomas, Robert Jahnke, James Robinson, Tanja Nola, Peter Gibson Smith, Anna Eggert and Jonathan Jones.

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