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.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Smaller better

Harvey Benge: Big work, small worksBath St
6 June - 20 June 2009

The two main parts of this show are a long narrow grid of coloured digital prints on the main bath St. wall - 240 of these butted together in a bank - and round the corner at the back, a suite of six very much smaller works from the series (and book): You won’t be with me tomorrow.

Benge’s small images, the framed photos separated out on one modest wall, are considerably better than the lumbering 8 x 40 grid that is ostensibly a single item. This one work is a dud: its proportions are wrong for the module size used, and it is packed with far too many images – urban shots to do with the sex industry, advertising, sentimental death, architecture and food – taken in Paris, Auckland, Genoa and Hong Kong.

It is all indiscriminate overkill, and apart from the issue of a high proportion of dross, even if these highly saturated images (reds and blues dominate) were all stunning by themselves, crammed into a long horizontal slot they merge into pictorial sludge.

The small vertical works are vastly superior, though Benge is hardly exploring the medium and going beyond conventional magazine fodder. Still he has done the right thing here in picking out quality works (with mystery or intensity) for viewing in isolation, and his ability with composition and scale is made obvious. He should have presented the whole exhibition in this manner.

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