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.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Surface and beyond

Glen Hayward: Live Transmission
May 27 – June 20, 2009

Upstairs in the small L-shaped gallery at the top of the stairs in Starkwhite, Glen Hayward presents a wide selection of wood carved simulacra, some of it on a fake worn painted door resting on ersatz trestles. There are over thirty items here spread out over the walls, ‘table’ and floor, some designed to make you think even real fixtures are Haywards.

Of course many artists are preoccupied with mimicry, and some like Fiona Connor, are not as hyper-exact as Hayward in their verisimilitude. He is notable for providing less clues in the finish of his replicas, and is especially pristine. However Connor has a genius for thinking up inventive in situ architecture-based projects, so someone like Hayward also needs to figure a way of proving his art is not just about craft or manual dexterity. Virtuosity for its own sake.

With this in mind, the best sculptures here are the handful that are Surreal, such as a paint tin with a gag nose, an inverted tap with eyeball, or a crownlike ring of splashed milk with snail: images that generate amusement through incongruity or which are dreamlike simply because they hit a nerve (like a box of castration rings, a spud that looks like Mickey Mouse, or an enlarged squashed Lego block).

In these few painted, carved kauri objects Hayward uses incongruous pairings to intriguing effect, and one can imagine him exploring the idea of hybridity or mutation further: perhaps in a more complex fashion. With these works he is not wowing his audience so much through accomplished technical skills as figuring out shrewd combinations that can generate disturbing psychological power.

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