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, November 5, 2009

Trans-Tasman collaboration

Gambia Castle/Joint Hassles: Cross ColouringCurated by Sarah Hopkinson and Harriet Kate Morgan
Gambia Castle
22 October - 7 November 2009

We have here the Kiwi hang of a two show partnership involving Gambia Castle and Joint Hassles, a Melbourne collective. The first presentation was in Hell Gallery in Richmond over September and early October, and so this is the Auckland version. There are twenty-two contributors.

The work is as varied as you can possibly imagine in finish and content, ranging from Rob McHaffie’s sweetly sensitive ceramic portrait of Buster Keaton to Daniel Malone’s coarse boot nugget-on-newspaper drawings of a man shining people’s boots. Some are substantial in size, like Alex Vivian’s clothes rack dressed in the apparel it displays; others are ‘dematerialised’ like Christopher L.G. Hill’s scattered bits of confetti-like paper and sand - or Dan Arps’ window display of painted yellow cord (referencing Kate Newby) and bits of glued on curled brown paper.

Nick Austin’s two delicate blue panels, one of a drawing of flames, have a cool detachment that sticks out like a sore thumb in this somewhat frenzied, abandoned context – and are half–hidden behind the door. On the other side of the room Kate Newby has a small, lumpy ceramic figure, crouching and bearing written descriptions of clothing and hair, while in the middle Tao Wells provides a battered little chair made of kindling and sagging fashion magazine photos.

Overall the Aussies seem more varied in attitude than the Castlers, ranging from ‘realistic’, illustrative paintings like Kain Pickens and Rob McKenzie’s hilarious portrait of celebrities wearing identical sunglasses and right-handed gloves, to James Deutsher’s amazing assemblage incorporating paint-splattered starbursts on black corrugated plastic with a dead plant pinioned under Perspex – positioned over a green, ‘blow-Soccer’ playing field.

Although this show is primarily a social event, both these groups want to reach new audiences, so the trans-Tasman partnership is a shrewd way of achieving that. While the display has the characteristic Gambia rhetoric of décor decided by bomb explosion, it’s worth picking through the indifferent placements, trying to decipher the catalogue listing - figuring out who made what – and discovering new things about these energetic Melbourne and Auckland art communities.

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