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.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Sweet crudity

Erica von Zon
30 June - 26 July 2008

This small installation, in one of the upstairs rooms at Starkwhite, deals with various cultural activities that help us escape from the prosaic humdrum: diversions such as tourism, music, art exhibitions, films, collecting bric-a-brac, etc. Von Zon has created an amateur craft stall that looks like residue from a performance. Like a mini-brocante it presents two trestles of fired clay animals, exotic tropical birds and knick-knacks like Turkish minarets, along with a wall of posters. There are also some fake sausages and sawdust in small sacks, a pretend tool-rack, and bags of tape, polystyrene bones and paper leaves.

The making of these items shows a disregard for the conventions of polish and finesse. It disdains manual skill so everything is extremely casual, rough as guts. Yet somehow with the crude ceramics a sort of charm creeps in, especially with the cat-headed bowls with their lumpy pinched forms. In contrast the posters on thin paper are raw, slap dash too. But no sweetness. Just rough.

Strangely overall, for such an installation, the arranged props are not consistent. The combination of immaculate, ’sterile’ trestles (with no handcrafted, draped covers) with touchy-feely tactility doesn’t seem calculated, as it might - only negligent. Though the inclusion of tools and tape in canvas pockets hanging on the wall suggests a process is being worked through, that is misleading. The work doesn’t seem to be about any ongoing testing of materials or subject-matters.

However in discussing von Zon’s performance work, the Te Tuhi website says her practice is about fakery. Maybe that can apply here too, but crude representation as a visual style doesn’t necessarily equate with trickery. It could just as easily be ‘authentic’ or ‘sincere’. Either way the work looks half-hearted and unfinished.

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