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, February 15, 2010

When outside is in and inside is out

William Hsu
St. Paul St- Gallery 3 (39 Symonds St)
First show of Sculpture Season 2010
Curated by Melissa Laing
11 February - 20 February 2010

In her introduction to this series of AUT shows Melissa Laing writes about the project as ranging from ‘the laborious hand production of the sculptural object’ to ‘its dematerialisation’. Hsu’s project is inclined towards the latter, being mostly pencil drawings on tracing paper – with a couple of functional readymade objects.

The bunkerlike gallery has two halves, one lower than the other and joined by a railed concrete ramp. The higher half was empty but for a standing gas cylinder labelled ‘balloon gas’ and a silver torch resting on a window sill with its narrow beam aimed at an opposite wall that is visible from outside. Outside the building, trapped under the brick archways overlooking the Symonds Street footpath, was a floating white balloon - detectable through the tops of some partially walled over windows.

Most of Hsu’s activity was directed to the lower floor levels, and was a meditation on the flowing properties of water as envisaged through a set of speculative drawings leaning against the wall, of the space being flooded. Calculations of the amount required to fill the space (and time taken - 10 days) were scribbled alongside sketched images of expanding puddles generated by taps located on hypothetical sites on four different floor plans.

The theme of the liberated gas-filled balloon on the top half of the gallery was alluded to in other pencil drawings – made outside - of water leaking out from under the door and iron grill on the Mount St corner, flowing down stone steps, across the footpath and into the drain. Other sketches showed the AUT building towering above the space, it being the source of waste water flowing down through plastic pipes and audible within.

Hsu’s images make us examine the gallery space and its outer environment closely. The rendered concentric puddles look at first glance to be a metaphor for the spreading of ideas and circulation of information. However the pressurised water, constant torch beam and compressed helium also coincidentally seem to refer to a conversation Ross Birrell, the editor of the Scottish online publication Art & Research, had recently in that magazine with Jorge Heiser, the editor of frieze, about Heiser’s paradoxical notion of Romantic Conceptualism and the relationship of the individual to the wider community.

In their discussion Birrell quotes the writer Carl Schmitt’s comments that just ‘as the romantic emotion moves between the compressed ego and expansion into the cosmos, so every point is a circle at the same time and every circle a point. The community is an extended individual, the individual a concentrated community.’ Heiser responds by describing Susan Hiller and the unknown community of artists who made the readymade ‘Wild Sea’ postcards she exhibited in the mid seventies, saying that a single individual can be the ‘medium’ through which an anonymous community speaks.

It might be argued that the porous and interchangeable nature of these two entities is also brought out in Hsu’s show, where ‘compressed’ insides and ‘expanded’ outsides mingle, water leaks through doorways, released gas expands and light (at night) can be seen in distant rooms.

Thank you to the artist for the images.

No comments: