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, May 15, 2008

Cohesive Combination

This Much is Certain: Alexandra Savtchenko, Sonya Lacey, and Sarah Rose (Elam Grad Exhibition)
George Fraser Gallery
7 May - 24 May 2008

These three Elam graduates showing together in the George Fraser have come up with a surprisingly tight exhibition – even though it was their supervisors who actually selected them for this project.

So why does it succeed? First of all, and most obviously, Sonya Lacey’s Structure for Standing while Talking (After Pistoletto) – a steel L-shaped sculpture that looks like a freestanding support for a lean-on-able bar in a pub - has ties with Sarah Rose’s Open Space, a large sign holder that looks like part of some monkey bars from a children’s playground.

Both major works function as metal forms (one is stripped of paint, the other is powdercoated) to be enjoyed as sculptures, but they could also work with human bodies swinging or leaning on them. They ‘beckon’ to passers by to be touched or climbed on, and reek of function and bodily interaction, not contemplative delectation. The participation of people with their rigid forms though is not essential. In fact, Rose doesn’t want people to touch her public sculpture, but because it looks like it is designed for children, and not art, her wishes will probably end up being ignored.

Rose has two other works in the show. One is a banner lying on the floor that is strangely folded so that its configured patterns point at the Open Space work outside the door. The other is a length of steel wire rope hanging from the ceiling and wall forming a suspended parabola. Its gravity induced, soft, round form is a vivid contrast to the rectangular hard contours of Open Space, and refreshingly casual.

Sonya Lacey’s Structure for Talking was once painted but she decided to strip that layer off and expose the ground, buffed steel. Her graphite drawings show that interest in surface, and both her preoccupations and Rose’s link well with Savtchenko’s video. Using a laptop Savtchenko presents films of billowing volcanic ash spilling out of erupting craters. She has also made a substraction work (related to the methods of seventies artists like Billy Apple) where she sanded and chipped away encrustations of paint from an internal gallery archway. Her removal process and images of suspended ash particles high in the air are a clever foil to the methodologies of her two colleagues. This is a rigorous, austere exhibition, but clearly a thoughtful one. It shows good teamwork without downplaying the significance of each individual contributor.

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