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.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cholesterol-laden 'paintings'

Richard Maloy: Yellow Grotto/Raw Material
Sue Crockford
22 July - 16 August 2008

This is a show of photographs of temporary butter paintings, an exploration of dairy product as raw material - with much of its physical attributes also examined in two DVDs.

The ‘paintings’ explore the properties of butter (warmed and softened by the artist’s hands) when applied onto a mid-toned grey board and combed and poked by fingertips. We think about the marks made by raking and prodding, patting with palms, and the shape of the flattened sticky mass: what they might add up to. No metaphor for butter as substance seems intended.

I wonder whether these four attempts are Maloy’s sole corpus of attempted butter paintings, or if they are the end of a long line of investigations. If he keeps going, they might get a whole lot better. The yellow gives them an aura of purity, and pattern and rhythm provide an immediacy for the simpler compositions. The unsuccessful ones are where he tries to draw, to represent or depict things.

There are also portraits of the artist with hunks of ‘expressively’ kneaded butter applied to his face. He applies the greasy goop to his visage and it just manages to adhere. And perch absurdly on the top of his head. And splatter all over his clothing.

Round the corner in the back room is a suite of related work from last year using wet clay. It is a very interesting point of comparison because while this year’s butter portraits look comical, these earlier clay ones look monstrous. Quite gross. A different mood entirely. The clay is heavier and bulky, and looks dark and evil. More helmet-like in the way it covers his whole head. It even covers his neck and shoulders.

There is also an earlier video of Maloy smearing clay over the leftside of his torso and waist, and left arm, melding the two together, smoothing over the join. The work has an intriguing Naumanesque quality, but creepier because it suggests a burn or deformity. It’s my pick of the butter/clay Maloys. They are a intriguing body of research that fit in with his earlier, but not so interesting, bag-over–head self-portraits. Well worth a visit.

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