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.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A planetary object

Chris Cudby: Smooth places
A Centre for Art
17 April – 2 May 2009

Chris Cudby is an artist-musician now presenting a sculptural installation in the new ACFA space in Wellesley St.

Cudby has prepared the room so it is dominated by a complex tower sitting on a base of two chrome scissor-legged stools. Using a set of frail wooden platforms the sculpture is a spindly slatted structure that incorporates a very large pot plant raised up high. There are other things too in the space. On one wall is a computer abstracted aerial photo, on another are some delicate pen and ink cartoons and a watercolour, on a low stool is a glowing red, plastic pyramid lamp (apparently alluding to a Gary Numan LP sleeve), and a black sixties ‘sci-fi’ amp and speakers (all curved pyramids) can be seen on the window ledge, playing soft music from a (now) antiquated i-pod. There are lots of formal interconnections between the understated drawings, pyramidal objects and stacked-up sculpture.

The tall plant (I think it’s an azalea) in the complex vertical sculpture is in a long, white, triangular slab pot. It has several elegantly braided, narrow trunks. The projecting platforms and structures, horizontally lined with thick brown cardboard, hold three types of object. One is an open LCD ‘book’ showing a loop of the artist (I’m guessing here, never met him) blowing cobwebs off the braided plant trunks. Another is a very small revolving turntable on which is a delicately dotted, plastic airlines ‘glass’ - filled with sparkling mineral water. A third, high up, is an orange globe of the world on a stand - though not actually ‘on’ a stand but hovering in mid-air, held in space by unseen magnets. The ball and ‘stand’ are positioned out above the leaves.

To enjoy this installation, you don’t need an underlying narrative; it works so well formally with many interconnecting parallel levels. The show has an appealing airy, linear quality that repudiates weighty density - a lightness of touch. Yet there clearly is a theme behind this arrangement of various elements – that of global and ecological issues. The images on the walls, the aerated water in the turning glass, the hovering globe, the tree, the image of its being cared for – all focus on planetary concerns. It is conventional subject matter for sure but it is done with considerable inventiveness and panache. This is a classy presentation that succeeds in spite of its theme, and not because of it.

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