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.

Friday, February 8, 2008

An Exciting Physicality

Jacqueline Fraser
Michael Lett, Auckland
15 January - 9 February 2008

The recent use of deep trays in the very large collages of Jacqueline Fraser allow her to explore a very physical kind of wit, the same kind of precise humour found in say Christian Marclay’s famous combinations of record cover sleeves. Like him she uses exact scale to match contrasting materials to create an exciting new variety of hybrid image. In her case it is used in an exploration of drawing that interacts bodily with her audience. She sets her images in a large dark rectangle that can be visually explored and almost physically entered.

The size of these recent works and the fluidity of Fraser’s images is much more compelling than those seen in her earlier Venice or Walters' Prize projects. She uses clothing, drapes, wigs and decorative materials - such as braid, gold foil and diamantes - to overlay supplementary ornamental detail on to an enlarged image from Vogue of a reclining model with a dog. The resulting creases, hanging folds, ruffles and pleats trumpet fetish items with a sumptuous presence that dominates over the base image. Their drooping three dimensionality adds an unexpected humour that complicates the loaded sexual aura of the undergarments. It exacerbates as well as undermines it. It wavers with an on/off ambivalence.

Fraser’s titles are repeated as part of her imagery, to be mixed with each photographed model and her accoutrements. Her love of language though brings an emotional shrillness that interferes with and not complements the image. Maybe these titles would work better as texts alone: as single composed sentences or written poetic stacks of horizontal lines – anything but components in these trays. Their piercing tone (like fingernails on a blackboard) eats into the work’s touting of its own construction and sensual rhythms, a quality that might be valuable if separated and expanded in isolation – as written language or sound, but not as image.

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