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, September 20, 2008

Charred lines

Elizabeth Thomson: Supposition
Two Rooms
18 September - 18 October 2008

I’ve always considered Elizabeth Thomson’s earlier graphic images far superior to her bronze wall sculptures of plants and giant insects - which to me are about technique only, and conceptually vacant. The recent pokerwork tondos again show off her technical aptitude, and probably would work better as big etchings or even charcoal drawings, but the images (burnt on to casein covered plywood) do indisputably resonate. They are visually intriguing.

They deal with the microcosmic world of nature, specially its cellular structure. Seemingly from plants, the drawn shapes are ambiguous. They could also be chipped off mineral flakes, reptilian scales, crystals or bubbles. The branded sepia line is subtly smudged into the grain of the ply.

Thomson’s line–making method irritates me. Is there a rationale, some semantic layering maybe to do with content, or is it merely a gimmick? Perhaps if the scorched images were entirely of wooden objects and Thomson was commenting on transience, or if the artist were attempting a conceptual statement (like the Australian artist Narelle Jubelin) about the politics of craft, there might be a detectable logic, but Thomson’s method seems akin to building a chair out of matchsticks. There are easier ways of creating the same appearance, and without a unique means to an end she seems to be fetishising her labour. It’s a rather pointless, dumb exercise.

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