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 6, 2008

Shields need protection from camera

Ann Shelton: From the Island
29 August – 20 September 2008

This recent series from Ann Shelton depicts fifteen hand-painted wooden shields created by the patients of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre on Rotoroa Island in the Hauraki Gulf for fellow clients to compete for. Shelton’s photos enlarge their rendering of sports or recreational equipment – according to the specific competition it is for - stressing their rough-hewn painterliness. Hung high they inadvertently emphasize the shield images’ clumsy construction.

The trophies gain nothing positive by the size increase or being digitally duplicated. Just by themselves would have great – simply as unphotographed readymades. Fifteen objects on the wall in a row.

Other documentary projects by Shelton, such as the inspired library to scale, have been miles more effective as installations. This one accidentally thumbs its nose at the subject matter instead of patting it on the back and being supportive. They look ugly because the tactile three-dimensionality of the paint has gone to be replaced by a flat reproduced surface. In close-up the painted marks lose any folkish charm embodied in their bad drawing, and become oafishly gross.

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