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

Three images

Natasha Cantwell: Sopstationen
A Centre For Art, Level 3, Achilles House
1 October - 18 October 2008

We have here a very tidy show from Natasha Cantwell of three C-type photographs, framed in brown wide wooden frames, under glass. They are together on one wall, and look good. I’m not sure how they fit in as ‘alternative avenues of representation’ as stated in the CFA credo, but the work looks very considered. And there seems to be a conceptual structure going on.

The title work shows a disturbed hawk about to take off from a dried branch, a taxidermied bird apparently in a museum diorama. Yet on our left we see part of a deer antler. We check to see if the bird’s branch is an antler too. The similarities raise doubts about what we are looking at.

Harriet’s Kitchen is an image of a dingy narrow kitchenette that is formally symmetrical, with a white oven surrounded by green tiles and shelving. Above it is a standard sentimental reproduced print, framed, of a river with snowy banks, wintery trees and fading yellow sky. Its lacklustre mood matches the kitchen in decrepit pathos, providing a strange sort of self-referencing wit.

Cantwell’s third image, Valentines Day, is sugary sweet but creepy. On its right is a pretty, sharpened pencil with vertical pink stripes gong down its sides. To its left is a large seal-lock plastic bag containing five extracted molars, while near its upper righthand corner is a small fragment of paper on which is written over a drawn heart, the word ‘mau mau’ – referencing the Kenyan anti-colonial military organisation greatly feared by the British. Therefore the teeth can be linked to torture and atrocities, or to the lolly coloured, edible looking pencil that wrote the words - cavities, dentist and more torture.

This is smart, highly nuanced work, but three images though is barely a taste. Hopefully more will appear soon.

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