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, July 13, 2008

Recycled stamps

Lianne Edwards: Recollect
Vavasour Godkin
3 July - 2 August 2008

At Vavasour Godkin, Nelson artist Lianne Edwards is having her first solo exhibition, presenting thirteen grids made of parts of dissected used stamps (some over 70 years old) interconnected using slivers of transparent hinges. Most sheets are suspended from the walls using strategically positioned pins. A couple are framed under glass in deep trays.

Edwards is attracted to certain parts (or possibilities of shape) within each stamp’s image. She cuts out many examples and positions them in fragile square or hexagonal formations. She also makes star configurations, wheel patterns, and wonky cross-shaped structures. The removed images can all be the same way up, or top and tails, or with sideways variations. Birds, mammals, ships, aircraft, houses, ancestral symbols: anything can be painstakingly extricated from the original stamps and arranged into these delicate and frail grids.

This sort of labour intensive art raises all sorts of questions. Just because something is time consuming to make or superbly crafted doesn’t mean it is interesting. Yet the converse happens to be true too. Something can be roughly made, even awkwardly thrown together, and the idea still make it work. I think this is because seductive beauty and grating ugliness can become interchangeable when a compelling concept totally intrigues. Something initially repulsive can be mentally transmuted into elegance if propelled by the right idea.

I know. I’ve digressed and done an odd little rant – the reason being there are interesting aspects about these paper grids beyond the artist’s obsessiveness and skill with a scalpel. Their repetition says something about species and types.

Like Warhol’s silkscreened coke bottles of the sixties, each unit is an individual. Some stamp parts have strange watermarks or discolorations. Collectively from a distance they look like coloured lace. And like an animal group on the verge of extinction, these grids are at the mercy of fate - for the smallest draught might dislodge them off the wall. Even when framed under glass they look vulnerable and fleeting, as if in an interim state, a stage of transitory suspension.

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