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, August 3, 2008

More Heaphy

Chris Heaphy: Sea of Tranquility
Gow Langsford
29 July - 22 August 2008

This exhibition of Chris Heaphy’s comes hot on the tail of some other works that featured in the recent opening show for the new Gow Langsford Lorne St space. These – like those - look like earlyTony Cragg meets Richard Killeen, as if plastic or china bits have been embedded in a smooth plaster wall.

Skulls dominate, as if to bring a little frisson (some mock ferocity) to the sweet lollipop palette, but of course these days skulls (as I've said before) like hearts, are so overused they are practically invisible. They simply aren’t scary anymore – certainly not linked to death or violence. They are cute and almost cuddly. Might as well be doves.

With the big ones, the positioning of smaller skulls in the background field is interesting, for they force you to focus on the size of the fake Killeen components which pull together in a skull gestalt. The different sized units intrigue when the two types come together in a fuzzy, slightly pointillist blur that doesn’t spatially advance the bigger components.

Of the nine works - featuring some apes and mickeys as well as skulls - the black on white paintings are the best, partly because Sara Hughes had a coloured palette similar to Heaphy’s, so that ‘look’ is starting to look now like a Gow Langsford brand, and also because formally they are more muscular anyway. With these black images Heaphy’s inventive placement of groups of silhouettes in voids like eye sockets or mouths works well. At a distance the tonal mix of similarly sized juxtaposed images (to get hazy greys) works better than the equivalent chromatic mix.

Heaphy states he has an interest on the one hand with traditional themes like mortality, and on the other, its opposite, the instability of signs. He can attempt to have his cake and eat it too if he wishes but conceptually, how his continual referencing of Killeen fits in with all that, is a bit of a mystery. Maybe, ultimately, there doesn’t need to be a thought-through rationale. Who said artists have to be logical?

(I have removed the original image of Chris Heaphy's work that accompanied this article at his request. Part of the value of images with criticism is that they can confirm or contradict the content of the words. Curious readers can use the links provided to make their own conclusions.)


a. nomie said...

heaphy's request for his image to be withdrawn is as cowardly as his wholesale appropriations over the years. these date from the early 1990's and famously gave birth to peter robinson's 'stop thief' of 1994. while killeen has been an unacknowledged source for years in heaphy's work, his recent work gives a whole new meaning to the return of the repressed. heaphy even produced a series of black and red cut-outs in 2006: see http://www.nadene this is not homage, development upon, nor sherrie levine, but unimaginative theft.

John Hurrell said...

Please identifiy yourself,a.nomie. That would give weight to your views, if Heaphy can confront you with your opinions like he can me with mine - if he so wishes.

a. nomie said...

i would have thought they have a factual weight of their own, like the images of heaphy's you politely removed - so it wouldn't be surprising if they share the same fate. what's more heaphy has already proven that his preferred mode of confrontation is censorship so what further courtesies should be extended to him?

John Hurrell said...

Oi, don't muddy the waters. You can read above what this site's policy is. I entend courtesies to whomever i please. The joke is that censorship is futile because the links are provided anyway. And images on this site are always good publicity, no matter what I might happen to say.

In other words, any publicity is ALWAYS good publicity. Most collectors are not going to be swayed by a review that goes against their visceral instinct. If they get that itch, and crave a particular work, nothing they can ever read will make them do a U-turn. But having an image broadcast is likely to attract other potential buyers. It's a win/win situation for the artist.