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, April 30, 2009


Liz Maw: Venus From Hell, Escape Into Night and the Future of Her
Ivan Anthony
25 April - 20 May 2009

Liz Maw is one of those artists whose paintings I’ve never warmed to. They are too illustrative or 'realistic' for my tastes, and there is something about the acuity of the edges of her forms, the clarity with which they sit in space, that irritates me. The precision in the detail is okay (admttedly impressive) - it's an issue about the lack of spatial integration in the picture plane.

I admit that also I find her work icy, even though it is often rich in earthy humour. It is technically amazing too, yet overall I still dislike it. She is way down my list of important practitioners.

Having said all that, I quite like this show. I’m surprised. It is the scale I think that appeals. Her work normally is too big. This stuff is surprising intimate, even very small at times. The more diminutive her work, the more drawn to it I become. I move towards the middle of the frame and look at the image very closely. Normally with her bigger works, I can’t be bothered. Her compositions just look clunky and gross. Drearily cornball.

Even so, there is a small self-portrait here that is a real cracker. It is slightly jewel-like and self-contained. A wonderful little work within a wide dark frame. It has everything you’d never find in the big works: namely psychological involvement. She is wearing a suit and holding a strange ghetto-blaster, and the detail works with the scale. It never becomes surplus or decorative. Everything is compact and perfect. No excess.

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