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.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Andrew Barber: Wall painting #3
Te Tuhi’s drawing wall
25 July - 27 September 2009

Within the exhibiting complex of Te Tuhi in Pakuranga is a ‘drawing wall’, a site where artists often work directly onto the surface of the exhibiting wall instead of hanging something framed or under glass. Auckland artist Andrew Barber here has positioned in front two very large, butted together stretchers, hiding the original white plane.

On these cedar stretchers are two large pieces of taut, pale brown linen: unsized, no gesso, devoid of paint. The creases have been flattened out with a hot iron. Water also has been applied with a housepainting brush to tighten the fabric stapled onto the bars at the back.

By standing in the right angle that takes advantage of the raking light you can see the sweeping marks on the linen’s surface. You can also see through the material, especially where the right-hand stretcher extends out towards the centre of the room, projecting away from the wall’s vertical edge about another third of its length again. You can see the supporting struts behind the thin fabric, and that the stretchers are about two inches above the floor. They are very firmly fastened to the wall.

The fabric is quite rough in texture – surprisingly so. Little fibrous balls and stringy hairs abound. They would need removing before any priming activity was started. However such activity is not necessary -for Barber has made a painting here that is completed. It is a sort of screen, to be looked at, looked through, and looked around as an element of architecture. You can walk around it, looking at its partially exposed back. There is a hint of Robert Irwin there with his use of taut scrim.

Barber has made a clever work that exploits the planar properties of the wall in an unexpected fashion. It is also a drawing via its linear water-stains and its oblongs of linen. It forces you to look closely and to try and remember what the original space consists of. It seems also to be a tip of the hat to the late Julian Dashper with his exploration of unpainted and reversed stretchers.

This is one of Andrew Barber’s best projects. Hopefully its subtlety will not cause it to be unnoticed. Worth a trip to see and think about.

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