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.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Locked-down black; floating white

Jonathan Jones
Tim Melville
10 March - 10 April 2010

Jonathan Jones, an Aboriginal artist (Kamilaroi / Wiradjuri) who works in light with bulbs and neon tubes in a manner vaguely related to Bill Culbert (to set a New Zealand context), has exhibited in Auckland before. He was in Good Company Flash Lights - curated by Jim Vivieaere - which a few years ago came to Bath Street.

Jones currently presents at Tim Melville’s a suite of geometric, linear, graphite (pencil) drawings and a wall installation of glowing neon tubes arranged in a pattern of repeated diamonds.

The neon formation alludes to carved patterns on weapons and trees, painted body decorations, or configurations put on the inside of possum-skin coats. You could read these as stacked up spread-eagled (or star-jumping) figures. However if you wish to ignore such symbolic narrative, even on a formal level Jones is extremely inventive. His diamonds are rendered in single, double or triple parallel lines to create odd lopsided tensions and a curious asymmetric geometry. Just when diagonal, horizontal or vertical rhythms start to become a pulse, they abruptly tease by switching to a new sort of line that is attractively irregular.

The austere drawings of black angular and straight lines seem to reference Mondrian and van Doesberg. Apparently however they are based on desiccated riverbeds Jones has seen in India that sparkle with incrustations of dried salt. Like the neon work they subvert repetition with an odd wonky tension that dissipates at the paper edges.

Jones’s tightly executed drawings remind me of the time-based (and encoded) painted works on paper by Simon Morris, but Jones seems not interested in systems or transparent process. His images vary in their use of space: some deep, others flat and schematic; some with skimpy cursory description, others apparently fully resolved. Their peculiar inconsistency comes from their source as found lines seen from the air.

These drawings are all beautifully made but viewer preferences will inevitably be subjective, a form of free association. It’s an interesting show with the precise sharp black edges providing a vivid contrast to the blurry glare of the bright white tubes. Two opposite senses of spatial location – dark and crisp (but locked down) with light and soft (but floating) - placed side by side. A delicately understated political metaphor.

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