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.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lighthouse flat

Bill Culbert: Flat lighthouse
Sue Crockford
11 November – 6 December 2008

Bill Culbert’s installation at Crockford’s is an irregular, very loose grid of rectangular surfaces placed flat on the parquet floor. Lots of old empty window and door frames, recycled doors, windows, sheets of pane glass and strategically positioned illuminating lights. The latter consist of five swivel-armed desk lamps facing down towards the woodstained floor and ten fluorescent tubes facing upwards.

As you’d expect from a Culbert show, the lights play off in varying degrees of intensity - reflected (on glass or wood) or directly radiated. Surprisingly Culbert has left Crockford’s big windows overlooking Auckland’s waterfront uncovered, thereby diffusing the illuminating and chromatic contrast between light sources and avoiding theatricality. He obviously intends it to be a daytime experience where the textures of the weathered grey frames and cracked glass are just as important as the glowing auras. On overcast days, the glare from outside dominates, though with clear skies, less light but more colour will enter the room and get reflected in the glass.

Personally I find the show too low key, and lacking in drama. It lacks fizz. But it does link up with many of Culbert’s photographs and his love of worn textures in those. Overall though, this show attempts subtlety and ends up dull. Culbert is best when he works within darkness, making magic out of things that don’t normally glow but which he transforms and takes beyond the ordinary.

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