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, August 20, 2008


Mark Adams and Fiona Pardington
Two Rooms
14 August -13 September

We have here a cleverly organised pairing of these two photographers looking at Aotearoa as it might have been (mainly) in pre-Pakeha times. Of special interest to them in this show is the use of pounamu (greenstone) and the trails Ngai Tahu used to get to the valuable deposits on the West Coast, quarry it and export it. Pardington looks at the former and Adams the latter.

Adams is usually known in Auckland for his coloured images of Samoan couples with tattooed body ornament, posing in the privacy of their sitting-rooms, works that have often been shown in the Auckland Art Gallery. Personally I find those photographs too sociological and community oriented. A bit dully obvious. I much prefer his panoramic landscape images here, with their dark brooding tones, largish scale, overwhelming mystery with a romantic sense of times past. Most are in two (occasionally three) sections, butted together.

I first saw his landscape work in the Close Up show at Gus Fisher. That was a revelation, so it is great to see more of it here. Adams is particularly good at presenting sweeps of darkly spectacular hillforms behind broad expanses of shimmering water or mudflats. His images are far better than the real thing, as all art should be. A spellbinding fiction. The loss of colour (or obvious colour) greatly improves them.

The heitiki that Fiona Pardington finds in museums and documents particularly intrigue, especially when they happen to be unfinished as carvings. They look like living creatures in the process of moving or growth. There are two sizes here and the smaller framed works succeed far more than the much bigger unframed ones which lose the depth and range of tone, but which have a delicate hint of colour.

The knockout photographs in Pardington’s half of the show are her shots of taxidermy birds, especially tui. She places their dark forms beautifully in a strikingly enbracing negative space which has an intense glare that overwhelms. The bird is not the first thing you see. Some of the heitiki are now becoming repetitive but these recent ornithological images have a formal subtlety that bring you back for another look.

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