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, December 6, 2007

Boys from Dresden

Discipline, Frank Nitsche and Eberhardt Havekost at Gow Langsford, Auckland. 16 November - 8 December 2007

These two artists are from Dresden, the German city flattened by Churchill’s bombers and made famous through Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse Five. Frank Nitsche makes paintings that use computer graphics and Eberhardt Havekost creates photographs of demolished buildings or car wrecks he subtly aestheticizes with digital technology. On first take, the former is romantic, exploring chaos and collapse, while the latter is classical, obsessed with order, nuanced design and placement of shape.

Nitsche’s large industrial looking paintings have a hint of Diebenkorn, but mainly appear to be a synthesis of manga with Picabia. They are very design-oriented, but the two biggest works (approx 2 m. square) have whispers of underlying cartoons or comics in the way they look based on abstracted heads. These are beautifully crafted, refined paintings. Their unexpected associations grow on you, for initially they are quite unnerving in their iciness and overt computer procedures. There is an ambiguous wit and design punning that slowly dawns as you warm to the sensual manipulation of shape and delicate intricacies of line.

It is the synthesis of computer drawing with traditional oil painting that makes Nitsche’s paintings intriguing, for they are very different from an acrylic painter who uses computers like Andre Hemer. Some lines have dragged dry bush marks and some shapes splatters of dripped paint. However you have to look quite closely to see them.

Likewise, Havekost’s digitally tweaked images of industrial decay are understated. In New Zealand this technical treatment of photographs occurs in the H-types of Paul Hartigan but his subject- matter and motivation is worlds apart, being about a sense of loss over disappearing street-signage. Havekost’s work is more related to Smithson but delighting in the shambolic and random as delectable residues from processes of disintegration. He has altered the colouration, some of it very subtly, so that soiled fabric acquires dusty greys, and crumbling brick walls have pale washes of pink that reflect the gallery walls outside the frame.

Personally I found Havekost’s photographs a bit dry and academic. I would have preferred a whole room of Nitsche’s more unusual paintings, or some of Havekost's own paintings thrown in. Still it is great to have a chance to see this work. Fabulous that Gow Langsford are presenting it.

Images from top to bottom: Eberhard Havekost, Ewigkeit (Eternity)- nos.3 and 8, photographic screenprints ed.52, 2007, Franke Nitsche, GOB-41-2007, oil on canvas,2007; Franke Nitsche, ROD-40-2007, oil on canvas,2007.

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