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, May 20, 2008

Range of Moods

Megan Jenkinson: The Light Horizon
Two Rooms, Auckland
15 May - 28 June 2008

Exhibitions of Megan Jenkinson’s photographs are quite rare so this large survey of unusually sumptuous work is a real occasion. There is a lot to look at here, with work from several projects from 2005 (when she had an Antarctic Artist Residency) onwards – using both floors in Two Rooms.

Jenkinson is well known for her photographs of fastidiously made collages that are often heraldic or symbolic in nature and layered in historic references. Personally I found that work irritatingly anal and a little schoolmarmish. There was often a sort of fact-laden pedantry about it. Its perfect symmetry and finish made you wish she could just loosen up and take some chances. Go wild once in a while.

And indeed in this Two Rooms show, finally, she does.
Not in the series Atmospheric Optics about the aurora though, using flapping fabric. It’s heading in the right direction but ruined by its hammy theatricality. Not in the lenticulor Certain Island series with blended images of landform (imagined by hallucinating explorers) and sea. Too balanced, with its gee-whiz evanescence wearing thin. Nor neither in the Weight of Water series of underwater cities. Too finicky with corny double exposures.

It is in the Ocean World series that Jenkinson finally starts to dance on table tops. Her treatment of swinging chandeliers photoshopped into mutant octopuses or jellyfish has a fabulously dizzying sense of lurching abandonment. Her best work ever in my view. No trace of icy lack of emotion or cerebral detachment here. All feeling, it is all of the body.

Upstairs I startled myself by also liking the Antarctica Palette series - where isolated, very static images are suspended above colour charts, each little rectangle having its own special name (taken from brands of paint I assume). The extravagantly flowery language in these brand names brings the real colour to Jenkinson’s works, more than the actual, elegantly controlled, chroma within her perfectly presented images.

The other knock-out series is Polar Night, where beams from spot lights are raking the nearby Antarctic foreground at night. Theatrical but subtle, these refined works are taken from high vantage points. Moody and dark, their nuances of colour draw you in close.

There is much to ponder in this show, and a greater range in mood than what it at first seems. There’s nothing wildly risky going on, no radically innovative ideas, but if you want to see some absorbing, sensual images that are truly memorable, it is well worth a visit.

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