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.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Missed opportunity

John Reynolds: Works End
Starkwhite, Auckland
26 May - 21 June 2008

John Reynolds is well known as an artist who is represented by Sue Crockford . However in this show he is presenting an experimental work in the much larger Starkwhite space. Because it is freestanding you could call it a sculpture, but in essence it is more a painting. The front side is more attractive than the back. It is a prefabricated painting about the painting market.

This is because the work consists of the sort of road signs you find on motorways, these being made by a professional road signage company, and its subject-matter is the high prices reached at auction from 1988 to 2007.

The work is a list of paintings titles, listed from 1 to 10, but shuffled in position so they fit on the large metal supporting frame properly. McCahon has more works than anybody else, but the other artists are Walters, Hotere, Hodgkins and Chevalier. The information comes from the New Zealand Book of Lists

This is a clever idea for Reynolds to pursue. It is an interesting concept to wittily treat the direction of the market with the road as a simile, and much better than the handmade paintings he has made in recent years which have eschewed his earlier joy in mark-making.

The trouble with Works End is that it needs to be taken further. A distinctive property of these signs is that they are iridescent. Their colour takes on peculiar glowing properties when it reflects and Reynolds should have capitalised on that. It requires a theatrical treatment where the work is presented in darkness and spotlit. More drama would have transformed the visiting experience. There are ways of extending the idea into the ‘real’ world he could have pursued as well. He could have made photographs with the sign Photoshopped onto images of real motorways, for example.

So what does the title allude to? The end of a boom? The end of Reynold’s career? Obviously the former. Everybody is watching the developments at Webbs and Art+Object with great interest. But as Andrew Jensen has stated in the Herald recently, what is public is quite different to what goes on privately.

I wonder what a ‘private’ Works End would list? How would you ever get information about such confidential negotiations? Would it make a good artwork? You betcha! Maybe that is Reynolds’ next project.

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