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

Woolly Bully

Gavin Hipkins; Natural HistoryStarkwhite, Auckland
1 February - 1 March 2008

Upstairs in one of the small Starkwhite ‘boudoirs’, Gavin Hipkins has an exhibition of nine of his latest photographs, using a Victorian salon hang on one wall with a pale green backdrop. His photos are digitally mixed hybrids that blend images from a natural history book of wildlife engravings with fabric patches of written verbal phrases, designed to be sewn on to clothing.

The merging is very clever indeed. The engraved illustrations, printed off metal plates, have been made ‘negative’ so that darks become light again, and lights dark. The result makes the images look like woven material, so when the photographed patches are superimposed over the pictures they look natural. It is not a forced pairing but a very smooth transition.

Not only do the images have a fabric-like quality but Hipkins’ colour choices are beautifully understated and subtle. The chroma is really knocked back so that it is delicate and nicely mixed into a range of similarly toned greys.

As for the aphorisms, when placed alongside the animal imagery they become very droll: a flock of pelicans in the branches of trees above the heads of menacing crocodiles / stay disconnected; a moorhen gingerly striding through a marsh / experience uncertainty; a nest of rattlesnakes / worse than ever; three owls in a tree / think ordinary; vultures picking at a carcass / lower standard.

This is a very good show from Hipkins, one of his best. Sensual, witty and innovative, make sure you catch it.

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