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

Reactions as videos and painting

Campbell Patterson: Work and Exercise
Michael Lett
10 September – 4 October 2008

This show pairs the videos and paintings by Campbell Patterson in an odd hybrid of darkened installation with white walls. Most of the moving image material is in a black polythene-lined space (the main gallery) and front entrance, while the four paintings are in the wee nook round the corner leading into Lett’s office.

Putting it simply, the videos are tedious oneliners, but the paintings are good. The filmed treatment of the jokes doesn't engage like say those of Steve Carr, which though also silly, have a slickness that intrigues via the work's meticulous construction. Many of Patterson's videoed wise-cracks are about process art, where the camera is set up and left running to record whatever might occur.

A good many of these quips seem focussed on Australian artist Mike Parr’s filmed performances in particular: Parr’s Holding my Breath for as long as I Can (1973) is transmuted into Patterson’s Holding My Mother for as Long as I Can. Parr’s lighting fires in his mouth with matches is turned into Patterson setting toilet paper on fire in a lav. Even the black plastic lined room seems a reference to Parr’s Black Box theatre made for the first Sydney Biennale in the late seventies.

Patterson’s Compilation paintings at first glance seem to be made of children’s transfers but in fact the images are painted. The categories and assorted jostled positionings make them intriguing. Many of the rendered clothes, animals, household objects, vehicles, toys and body parts are upside down or sideways, so the square works seem capable of being hung any way up. In other words you have four options. Some images contain blended doublings where detailed parts are repeated within an image, creating an amusing sort of 'double-vision'.

Compared to the flippant videos you could spend a lot of time with the paintings. They have a Killeenlike interest in categorization and how connections can be produced between randomly placed images. They might even have started as a send-up of Richard Killeen but they have gone off somewhere else. They are sweeter, more intimate and domestic, more literal in the sort of mental narrative they encourage. Jokey, but yet worthy of serious attention.

(Thank you Michael Lett for the images).

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