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, December 3, 2008

Less skin, more sea, rocks and sky

Hoon Li: Holy Mother Nature!
28 November – 24 December 2008

This collection of digtal photographs and lightboxes shows Hoon Li’s (previously he was 'Jae Hoon Lee') most recent developments. A few have been seen already in Te Tuhi and MIC shows, and it is good to see them again, this time within his own very singular context. There is no moving image work here, as might be expected. Yet the photographs are some of the largest Hoon Li has made. With their dramatic symmetry they are quite extraordinary.

One image of a huge circular lake that is like an enclosed estuary, about 40 cm tall and nearly 160 wide, is the most bizarre, starkly beautiful panorama you could ever imagine. Nearby as a contrast are two vertical images of vegetation-covered, rocky outcrops that precariously teeter on small islands in the sea. Vividly detailed, they seem aligned parallel to a standing viewer, and may even slightly lean towards them.

Two further horizontal works, glowing lightboxes of panoramas taken out of a plane window, are composites of several sequential images. Placed low on the floor they relate spatially to a couple of nearby coffins covered with printed, computer keyboard letters. To speculate, Hoon Li seems to be making a joke here about the death of analogue photography.

Li (or Lee) originally become known around 2003 for his images of blended skin textures, some of which was tattooed, much of it just blemishes, pimples and freckles. In this current show there is a giant vertical hand, like that of a Buddha, pressed against some glass. The patterns of fingerprints and fine palm lines are in great detail, with subtle blotches and translucent fleshy patinas. This image seems to provide the ‘Holy’ part of his exhibition title, the ‘Mother Nature’ part self-evident in other works.

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