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.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Two peas

Christopher L G Hill + more: You can’t steal a gift
Gambia Castle
10 October – 1 November 2008

Spring Catalogue Exhibition
Gow Langsford with John Leech
19 September - 10 October 2008

These two exhibitions might seem worlds apart in terms of ideologies and attitudes to presentation and market - but they are closer than you think. Hugely different in the spending power they aspire to attract, both seem to celebrate a visual shambles in a perverse effort to lure buyers. (One is a stated dealer show; the other is not). Each is a ‘dog’s breakfast’ accompanied by promotional reading material - a purchasable, glossy catalogue from Gow Langsford and a free newsprint poster from Gambia Castle. Like peas in a pod, no one is better than the other. Yet both are hard to take seriously.

But if you insist that one do so, and one also wanted to acquire, then there are intelligently conceived items in each, worth sifting through the ‘detritus’ to seek out.

There is a particularly fine Killeen canvas from the early seventies amongst the selection of mainly wall works at Gow Langsford, a diagonally aligned spine of quivering elongated triangles from a taut ‘Pacific’ design. On the opposite side is an intriguing Simon Ingram canvas made by his daubing, robotic Lego, paint applicator. One work is about visual dynamics and nuanced tension, the other a planar programming that results in the most peculiar of mark alignments and placements. It has an oddity that beguiles.

The ‘Hill and friends’ show at Gambia Castle, a mix and Australian and New Zealand artists, is mostly polystyrene beads, found objects (often discarded clothing and leaf blowers), some publications, bits of trees with shower caps and a couple of paintings rendered directly on to the walls. Visitors are not meant to help themselves to the work, despite the show’s title and Barrett’s essay on the poster.

However there are some treats here too if you look closely. Hill’s tiny image of a tap pouring dollar signs out in a gushing torrent (‘Capitalism is a waste of time [drought of d-beat discourse]’) is surprisingly gripping, while Evergreen Terrace Vol.2#, a folder of articles by Hill, Olivia Barrett and James Deutscher, is a fascinating anthology placed near a chair for easy browsing.

These exhibitions look awful. Some shambolic shows can still exude intelligence, but not so here. The disorder for Gambia Castle is calculated – a pinch of humour mixed with a lot of rhetoric - but for Gow Langsford it is more apathy.


smithsan said...

Gambia Castle, which was under the command of Captain Charles Russell; however Lowther was more popular with the crew, as Russell seemed to care more about his shipment of slaves than for his men. Russell distrusted Lowther.

John Hurrell said...

To my knowledge there is no impending crisis of leadership at either Gambia Castle or Gow Langsford. I don't see any slaves around, or disgruntled crews.