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, July 2, 2009

Imparting knowledge

Erica van Zon: Take this with you
2 July - 18 July 2009

Confounding expectations of a handmade ceramic installation with handmade posters or performances on video, Erica van Zon’s latest show presents one work only, tucked in the small stem in the T of Newcall’s exhibiting space. Using industrial technology she has created a rosy-pink neon text. Written in a flowing cursive script and arranged in glowing stacked rows is an English expression translated from the original Dutch adage: Don’t let your heart be a lion’s den.

It’s a bold work that effectively dominates the whole space with its pink glow and sizzling electrical crackle – even though it is tucked away to one side. It looks Naumanesque but is more like Holzer; a piece of kind-hearted advice, a compressed lecture about the corrosive properties of hatred. Addressed to herself or another.

Van Zon likes aphorisms (and cliches as in the ‘Dog Eat Dog’, ‘People Come People Go’ texts of her ceramic tiles) but this is a clever choice in that its ‘heart’ reference alludes to her earlier sculptures, and the Newcall space creates its own quite intimate ‘den’, but one not strewn with bones. Such an ambiguous text is fun to think about, especially with its Biblical references and the fact that lion’s don’t actually live in dens, prides move around. Perhaps artists live in dens?

Sooo…how do we respond to the content here? Maybe the artworld would be better if more viewers were contrary to van Zon’s sentiments, and had hearts like gory scenes from bloody massacres. What exactly do I mean? Only that passion about art surely is good, both raves and dislikes – especially dislikes - and that (to be a little preachy) more people should speak their minds. Timidity of opinion curtails conversation. Such activity is not the primary impulse behind art’s existence but it certainly helps.

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