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.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Canvases and gorgeously 'trippy' watercolours

Brendon Wilkinson: Mercury Bubble
Ivan Anthony
10 September – 4 October 2008

Brendon Wilkinson is known for his astonishing architectural models of the late nineties, widely admired for their astounding detail, complex referencing and perverse humour. His global maps made of modeling paste and coffee grounds smeared onto Formica table tops are extremely interesting too.

He’s been a painter for some time now, yet his best ever work is sculptural. It is a shame he has abandoned it. This current show looks like some strange aberration of psychedelic LP art from the mid seventies. Everything is drenched in mauve washes and hippie feathery-girl-skin, but the images are also industrial, as if referencing car parts and machinery. Female body forms are blended with animal heads and pelts. Duchamp meets H.R. Giger - yet somehow feminized, totemic and feral.

It is the strangest concoction. The detail is within the surface of things, not on them. Clashing ornamental styles run rampant. The spatial peculiarities of Futurism with its repeating overlapping moving forms is combined with op art, delicate crystalline prisms, receding depths and X-ray vision in a manner that just manages to be coherent.

Of the eight works on display, the best are not canvases but the smaller delicate watercolours on sheets of paper which are influenced by Michael Harrison, and even Rodin. These succeed because they are understated, being beautifully composed with lots of air around the ingredients. The canvas works have a boganish hyperactive freneticism, a restless need to continually twitch and never sit still; the paper works have instead a quietness that is stable – a calm positioned around the dense decoration that draws you in so your eyes are reluctant to leave. Photographs can't capture their nuances for they demand a direct encounter. These are exciting, complicated, but subtle images.

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