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, February 9, 2009

Three artists

: Akiko Diegel, Boris Dornbusch, Trenton Garratt
3 February – 28 February 2009

This exhibition of three young comparatively unknown sculptors at Starkwhite is a good chance to think about the sensibilities detectable in their work. Two of them have won Awards, so they are starting to attract a following. As ‘a trio’ in the large downstairs space they create a nuggetty, resilient display, and have more work upstairs in stock shows.

Akiko Diegel’s work 7 x 10 refers to a grid of stacked up blankets that have been cut and stitched into shopping bags. They almost could be mistaken for folded singlets but they are too rectangular.

Her installation seems to refer to the comforts of the activity of shopping, rather than being about the acquiring of any specific products. It extols the warm soothing pleasures of consumerism, the addictive joys of spending, seven days a week, ten hours a day. It also critiques by suggesting buyers are like babies with bags that serve as security blankets. That shopping is something compulsively bodily and reflexive.

Three works she has upstairs show a similar sort of wit. One is a small jam jar of bulldog and alligator clips made from the paper foil that surrounds Aspirin and Disprin tablets. It suggests our sense of the corporeal and neural is suspended by chemical painkillers which keep us out of touch with our normal bodily processes.

In a nearby fridge Diegel also shows two frozen power-sockets made not of plastic but white chocolate, a circular joke about sustaining molecular stability through electricity. More oblique conceptually, but astounding physically, is a paper coffee cup holder made of thin plaster – a project similar to works by Glen Hayward in its technical virtuosity.

Trenton Garratt’s sculptures are less complicated, mounds of brittle terracotta or white chips that are thin with pointed ends. The work is about the heap as an elemental haystack-like form, and physical taste. The fragile baked sticks look unnervingly like skinny French fries and affect you intestinally. They also look like straw or shredded paper.

Upstairs he has two unusual oil paintings about vertical – not horizontal – layering. They feature scrawled texts. Out of Change has ‘Africa’ and other words written underneath the title, while Out of Nothing is superimposed over ‘Danger’. Garratt seems inspired by Robert Smithson’s famous A Heap of Language drawing with its stratified lines of cursive script.

Boris Dornbusch’s projects seem fixated on transmitting or receiving signals, a trope for the process of Art itself. His main work, Towers 2 The Sky, features video film of a man in an agitated (drugged?) state, frenetically dancing. He is slapping his buttocks and legs to the rhythm of music that we cannot hear. It may only be in his head, or it may be emitting from his nearby house or various parked cars.

He is filmed from a high window from across the street and that creates a sense of voyeurism. The moving image is projected on the gallery wall from a DVD player on a stand and nearby is a microphone stand with no mic, as if a comment on the unseen musical source.

Dornbusch seems intrigued by the distance between separate parts of artworks. On the wall by the landing of the staircase leading upstairs is a yellow disc from a plate-sized ‘smiley face.’ The two eyes and curved mouth have somehow slipped down to the varnished floor. Upstairs the theme of movement is explored with stationary objects once more. A pilgrim’s bundle wrapped in garish synthetic fabric and attached to a pole lies on the floor of one of the galleries.

There are also two sets of hanging keychains on the walls. One has a laser aerial for locking and unlocking cars. The other a whistle. The theme of transmission and reception appears again.

This is a subtle understated show where nothing is obvious. You need time to ruminate and discover the connections. It’s a tough restrained exhibition that is demanding but rewarding.

(Many thanks to these artists and Starkwhite for the above images. The photo of Trenton Garratt's terracotta Our House was taken earlier at City Art Rooms.)

No comments: