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.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Night is right

Seraphine Pick: Fall and Trip Hazards
Michael Lett
11 December - 31 December 2008

We have here six new paintings from Pick: two beauties (Wandering Rose; Five Miles of You); two middling works (Good Morning, Morning; Fall and Trip Hazards): and two awful ones (Dressed Up For the Letdown; Love Like Yours). The works are shown from top to bottom.

The really successful works are so because of their unrelenting theatricality and spatial resolution. They are simple and immediate as composed images. Not too complicated. And rich in interpretative possibilities.

The other paintings tend to get spoiled by two main sorts of problem. One is that often the women seem stiff and robotlike, as if they secretly suffer from ghastly spinal ailments. They are more like plastic dolls than human.

The other is that often Pick’s forms aren’t anchored convincingly in the illusory space. They hover above the ground instead of standing or sitting on it. I think she knows this and tries to joke about it. Hence the pot plant on stilts in Good Morning, Morning.

Fall and Trip Hazards seems to be about sexual anticipation, but with an odd,ungainly composition that is making a joke about Balthus. The windows have a compelling rhythm while the precariously balanced reclining figure leaning back has a lip that looks like a tongue. It is pointedly the same height as the standing woman’s genitals. And the plastic tape covering the window crack looks like an erect phallus.

You think I am being a grub? Well Pick paintings are often sexual. She constructs images knowingly. These aren’t accidents. A viewer with a filthy mind is her perfect viewer.

The other paintings have young women suffering from frozen posture. They are sickeningly demure, and the paintings would be better without them, especially Love Like Yours where the trees on the skyline behind the rocks are fantastically inventive. She seems to have more facility with paint when creating night-time scenes. Apart from the brilliant Five Miles of You, in this show nocturnal imagery is what seems to suit her best.

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