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

Two Orjis images: one old; one new

Richard Orjis: little black flowers grow, in the sky
29 August – 20 September 2008

There are two images here upstairs at Starkwhite: one is in a new Orjis exhibition; the other is in a stock show.

The old one has been around for a while and is unforgettable. A smeared mud-caked man with pink nose, mouth and chin, stocky pale arms and dressed in orchids, peers at us impassively from behind his elaborate costume/bouquet. He was born of the earth - along with these floral delights - and is a perfect synthesis of man and plant. There is a hint of Archimboldo mixed in.

The new work is even more utterly wondrous. A hairy brown bearded man lies on his back, face up, with his extraordinarily pale, naked baby girl straddling his neck. The image is a transparency in a lightbox so she really glows. Her white skin is unnervingly intense. So bleached it seems supernatural. Dribbly transparent goo is running down her baby chest.

He lies on a dark blanket of blue-grey velvet. His dark trousered legs in the distance form a blurry vee while two lit candles on his shoulders make him into a sort of altar. The luminous child has been sent down on a moonbeam and is an avatar to be worshiped. With such a compelling image how can we refuse?

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