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, July 31, 2008

Dj of the ornamental

Kim Meek: Hoopla
Anna Miles
16 July - 2 August 2008

Kim Meek is one of those artists who rakes over the web searching for interesting images to find, dismember and digitally re-fuse with other elements. His use of sampling however, when applied to a passion for the ornamental, makes him similar to a dj using turntables as an instrument, mixing beats and blending tunes. He likes pattern and rhythm, and putting normally incongruous surfaces together in layers so they look natural. His sources are wildly unpredictable, from images of bizarre forms of animal life to illustrations of tropical fruit, from circus posters to Islamic architectural tracery, from Mughal sword blade motifs to Japanese prints, American comics and English textiles.

The resulting hybrids are a bit like Richard Killeen’s digital images but are not self referential as his can be. These also have no interest in spatial illusion, being flat and collagelike. Nor are they always precise, for sometimes they have a folk-artish rawness, a rough painterliness - depending on where the image has come from.

To continue with the music analogy, because aural sensation has more impact on the body than visual, optical work like this rarely has the immediate visceral power that music often has. And they do seem like complicated, icy, cerebral exercises to some degree, not sweeping you away. Yet the delicate complexity of Meek’s work draws you in, making you stand close to appreciate them. Most of their detail cannot be captured in photographs because background and foreground are carefully woven together (and often tonally matched) to make the whole picture-plane a busy, seething surface.

It’s not all abstract sensation though. Allusions via pendulous fruit and nut forms to testicles and breasts, and sliced squid to vulvas, introduce a slightly creepy humour. They have a devious surreal undercurrent that enriches them. Meek has picked forms loaded with associations. They may not be immediately visceral but they do have a dreamlike ability to startle music rarely can provide.

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