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 1, 2008

Optically gently abrasive

Taking a Line
Vavasour Godkin group show
11 September - 18 October 2008

This is a standard group show from Vavasour Godkin with regulars like Hemer, Parkes, Jansen and Thornley making their usual appearances. Nothing wrong with that, mind you. These four really come up with the goods. Hemer and Jansen especially.

Andre Hemer, while instantly identifiable by his yellow/orange palette and masking methodology, keeps changing his painted forms and the shapes of his supports. The tondo here dazzles with its negative canvas vegetation and unfurling ribbons, while the smaller rectangle seems to be making jokes about Clement Greenberg’s favourite painter, Morris Louis, and his vertical stains. If you ever saw a stain in a Hemer painting you’d be needing an opthamologist.

Down the other end of the room is an evanescent pencil dot drawing by Monique Jansen that looks like a screen door or enlarged section of photo-hoarding. It is wonderfully ethereal with its floating unanchored forms, as is a borrowed Agnes Martin drawing of carefully spaced horizontal lines, popped into the show.

Also inserted (but NFS) is one of the best ever Gordon Walters paintings you are ever likely to see. Karaka II (1980) is unusually large for Walters, being particularly muscular in its organisation of pulsing korus, and with their bulbs being especially large. This strident work is pilgrimage material for out-of-town Walters fans.

Miranda Parkes’ billowing painting of vertical pink stripes has a raw red painted across some horizontal crevices, adding an effective counter-structure to the projecting form. It resonates well with the adjacent Geoff Thornley. Flat and long, its horizontal wooden boards have been lathed into stacks of gouged furrows that have then been painted.

Gregory Bennett’s digital animation is on four small LED screens placed on a shelf, showing aerial views of marching soldiers. Some parade in grids, and others are in spiralling rows, all flippantly satirising military precision.

Angela Brennan, Sarah Hughes and Melinda Harper use colour in a more abandoned sense, either within soft lines featuring raggedy or smeared edges (Brennan) or angular forms that are super saturated and abrasively optical (Hughes and Harper).

Overall this show is an odd selection, for its range is too wide. The subtly restrained and gentle works don’t sit well with the eye-poppers. Nevertheless, for the Walters, Hemers and Jansen alone, well worth a trip down High St.

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