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 18, 2008

Joys of inversion

Gavin Hipkins: Second Empire
Lopdell House, Titirangi
14 February -13 April 2008

Recently I discussed the glassed-over and framed Hipkins show at Starkwhite but these works by that artist in the Second Empire series are quite different. They are printed into canvas and presented as a sort of painting, much as Paul Hartigan has done with his H-Types of digitally tweaked Polaroids, which were originally taken in the seventies to document New Zealand street-signage.

The eight Hipkins works at Lopdell House though are historical, line engraved book illustrations reversed into negative, and inverted. The superimposed embroidered patches are brighter in hue, and to me, not as funny or as subtle as the text based works with birds and reptiles. The patches are clearly thematic. For example, for inverted river scenes we have a canoe or leaping salmon, and for a railway vista we have a St. Andrew’s cross of monkey wrenches.

These images are bigger and so, more physical in their presence. The inversion makes you work a little harder for, as negative topsy-turvy images they are very abstract and initially chaotic. But you still get drawn in, especially with no glass. You need to study the background before examining the fabric patch.

Mostly though they are enigmatic, remaining mysterious. The inversion encourages confusion and mistaken interpretations of imagery, pushing you into tangled skeins of ambiguity. Mischievous stuff.

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