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, May 18, 2009

Don’t bloody move. Ever!

Richard Frater: Still
HSP, Christchurch
5 May - 16 May 2009

Three oddly shaped configurations are fastened to the floor – made of pieces of grey carpet butted together - different tones, some brown tinges. They create strong negative shapes on the honey-coloured varnished wooden floor and are oriented around two white columns and two wall pilasters. One configuration is a single piece of one tone textile; another has two; the other three.

At first glance these elements seem to be a nod to sixties conceptualist Mel Bochner and his use of painted shape dictated by the combined lengths of straight edges: and with bits of dyed string and light cord dropped on top as Duchampian footnotes. There is also an incorporated rectangle of grey silk with screened-on wrinkles, and a hole punched into the centre of one white wall. The impetuous mixed with the calculated. Reason alongside passion. Sensitivity besides the gross. Which is which?

Shape; tone; line; dot – all in an unusual in situ presentation. What is Frater up to here? There is a strange subtext of foul tempered violence that the space is on the receiving end of; as in slam that wall, stomp that carpet. The nap is scuffed up. Lots of boot marks, some wheels too. The ‘string’ could be wool pulled out of the edges of the weave.

The peculiar shapes seem also vaguely connected to the letters of the word ‘Still’; the carpet articulating in a roundabout way the S and the two Ls, the white columns the I, and the wall pilasters the T.

This is a very focussed exhibition, featuring a calculatedly limited means compared to his more complex recent display at Newcall. The show looks simple but the more you examine it, the stranger and more intriguing its decoding possibilities become.

(A big thank you to the artist and Paul Johns for the images)

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