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, April 10, 2008

Welcoming Cave

John Reynolds: Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas
Christchurch Art Gallery (Burdon Family Gallery)
14 February - 27 April 2008

This show is based on Reynolds’ set design for the Court theatre and so, naturally, is theatrical. It mixes lighting contrasts with a range of scales - from tall ladders to very small drawings pinned to the wall – and a variety of complexities, most involving overlaid grids. The spot-lit drama gives it oomph far beyond Reynolds’ other projects of recent years.

The sculptural props here don’t really need moving, verbalising people to enliven the space - for they work very effectively, statically, in the gallery on their own. They might not be so successful though, in actual performances of Thomas’s play. The mix might be overcooked and destroy the narrative –but perhaps that might not matter.

The best elements are grids projected on to the walls over pencilled grid drawings, or sprayed balls of silver suspended within bright spots. The gallery is turned into a sort of cave, and the bright areas interact beautifully with various ladders and planks on trestles draped with netting and rope or small paintings. This installation has great atmosphere. Not as visceral as Darryn George’s project next door but amazing nonetheless.

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