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, October 21, 2009

Bath St. dip

Group show: New works
Bath St
23 September - 31 October 2009

Sixteen new artworks from eight artists associated with this gallery, provide the body of this Bath street exhibition. The show seems a little under-nourished, but these ten items (from five of the contributors) made the visit worthwhile for me.

Some of the works make corny puns about the gallery name, but succeed nevertheless. Peter Gibson-Smith’s pencil drawing covered with what seems to be wax shows a three colonial gentlemen bathing in the geothermal waters of the Pink and White Terraces. It looks like a digital work with its regular hatching, but the transparent coating seems to be a conceptual metaphor referencing the 1886 Tarawera eruption that is depicted in the background and of which the subjects are blissfully unaware.

Tom Sladden has a swimming pool included with a podium and harbour mouth in three deliberately ‘unfinished’ paintings, rendered on wooden panels. They exert a fascination through the fact that pieces of drawn or painted-upon paper can be added to their surfaces, as evident from the detectable remnants of double-sided tape. The viewer is forced to mentally envisage alternative possibilities for these ‘empty’ images.

This interest in process continues in four works by Tanja Nola that examine the chemical constituents that underpin not only traditional photography but also metal and glass casting, and grinding and polishing. One is an image that takes five years to be completed, the three others being sculptures with casting crystal as the central component. Despite examining various craft methodologies these seem surprisingly surreal (even Dali-esque) - though Nola has a history of such a sensibility in her photography – and an intriguing cross-disciplinary hybrid.

Louise Purvis exhibits wall sculptures that are fibreglass models of topographic maps, covered with flock. She takes an essentially horizontal method of spatial representation and turns it into a vertical wall relief, and then wittily covers it with a wallpaper material in an unexpected act of self-mockery - as if she half wants to hide it. There is an peculiar unresolved conflict going on, for the flock could also be coloured grass.

The highlight is an amusing Denys Watkins portrait of Pluto the Disney dog painting a picture. He is holding it with one ear, while having a brush tied to his tail. The image is ambiguous, for the camouflage-coloured hound is also standing on a table. He appears to be looking out a window/painting, as if trying to escape. Watkins could be commenting on the sometimes claustrophobic nature of art, or he might be saying the opposite, that it is our salvation, that as a form of fantasy it rescues artists from the tedium of everyday living.


s. said...

What a great, fun looking show. I'm glad the corny puns on the name of the gallery -- I've not come across that before -- aren't too bad.

John Hurrell said...

Probably not as bad as my own. I can't help myself.