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.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hard-headed watercolour

2008 Henrietta and Lola Anne Tunbridge Scholarship exhibition
George Fraser
21 August -30 August 2008

This is an unusual idea, to have a $10,000 prize for watercolourists. And as it turns out, it’s a pretty nuggetty show. Not really about manual dexterity in rendering as some might expect - more about attitude and concept. In fact it’s an avant–garde show. It takes an extreme position, and is the better for that.

Ron Brownson, the judge, Senior Curator at AAG, made a good choice in choosing the winner. A toss up between Charles Ninow or Mark Foster, I’d say. Ninow’s six sheets of hideously glossy light card featured small groups of tiny red and yellow squares (a reference to mosaic tessellations) - some of them pin dots – swamped in a field of white. Utterly bizarre but also very funny. Nice title too: Stability on Thursdays (Working Towards Stability on Mondays) #1-6.

Two of the entries (Seul Ki Kim and Wendy Hannah) are too sentimental for this context and looked out of place, but the rest – Andrew De Freitas, Nicola Farquhar, Ninow, Mark Foster, and Ash Kilmartin – helped construct a tight little exhibition that celebrates rigor and steely resolve.

Some artists' statements might have been a handy option, but not a necessity. The written word is overvalued now in art academia and tends to smother the experiential, but most viewers are likely to be curious about the motivation behind these works.

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