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, March 15, 2009

Glass selection

Darren Glass: Confusus turbatus
Anna Miles
6 March - 4 April 2008

Darren Glass is much admired for his unique custom-made cameras that use long exposure times, the extraordinary individualistic images they produce, and the breath-taking range of projects he has successfully researched. He often exhibits these cameras as ‘sculptures’ without photographs, a term that accentuates their unusual form (compact or linear) but which sidelines their special function as mark-making tools. The photographs contextualise them as carefully constructed three-dimensional objects while conversely, any comprehension of the paper images comes from mentally grasping each camera design and locations of their various apertures. His processes are akin to those of Stephen Pippin but are more portable, less urban in subject matter, and less industrial in the containers that he uses. The sculptures formally have a touch of Richard Deacon.

This small show presents a sample ten kinds of image from ten such varieties of ‘sculpture’. Some of these cameras and their images are more conventional than others. Glass has made over ninety types and is about to publish a book describing their making - demonstrating what they can do. There is a lot of curiosity about the details underpinning the inventiveness of his methods.

In this mini-survey some of the images feature very subtle distortions of landscape forms; others are stretched out in long horizontal rectangles with unexpected objects appearing within each panorama. Others have repeated exposures forming specked flares of diffuse granular light or swirling lines made by the camera sent spinning through the air like a Frisbee or rolling down a hill. Some of these lines are tightly patterned within circular ring or grid formations; others are wildly chaotic and frenetically skate across the whole image.

The ‘Flying Discs’ are particularly interesting: one such camera with seven apertures has its mark-making characteristics displayed with four photos. Seven circles within a circle, each with glowing ribbons splayed out and twisting from an unravelling – but increasingly convulsive - coil.

I admire these works like I like Paul Hartigan’s spiralling ‘Revolution’ neon wall-sculptures – they have a fascinating tension. The spatial ambiguities of the coils have a tightly flexed compression about to spring free, and straighten out. There is a suggested freedom that reflects a refusal to mimic the world cameras usually examine, but create a new one using the laws of chemistry, gravity and motion. Rarely is linear light so adventurous.

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