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.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Avian caves

W. D. Hammond: Cave Paintings
Ivan Anthony
8 October – 8 November 2008

Possibly referring to Plato’s cave and the outside world of idealised forms, these new Hammond paintings lack the multitude of birdlife found in earlier, larger and more spectacular pictures. They feature small groups of prehistoric eagles, some solo and solitary, a few Byronic and Romantic, the occasional slightly maudlin.

With thin washes of metallic gold and earthy umbers, so that the outside landscape is bright and the inner cave walls dark, the avian figures tend to be heavily stylised and decorative with their detailed feathering. Their rigid stiffness makes them similar to Assyrian wall reliefs.

The biggest painting is like Hammurabi meets The New Yorker. Signal Box is really a glorified cartoon, with all sorts of eagles trying out different methods of sending messages. Pictographs, semaphores, smoke signals, metal signs on poles, eagle-pigeons: they’re all there being enthusiastically tested. For this artist the explicit humour is unusual.

There seems to be a nice reflexive quality about the whole thing, is if Hammond is having a bit of a think about his communication skills and raking through his assorted thematic approaches for a reassessment.

There are only a few works here, and all are chromatically less sumptuous than his last show, despite the gold washes. Worth poking your nose in.

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