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.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Every dream home a heartache

Andrew Barber: Dream home / Shithouse
Gambia Castle
1 May - 23 May 2009

I suspect the photographs on Gambia Castle’s website are the real point of this Andrew Barber exhibition – not the show itself. The plaster dust that the sanding artist seems to delight in coating his oil paintings with could be a trope for obscuration over time of a work’s initial rationale, and how any accurate ‘contemporary’ currency or contextual grasp of meaning doesn’t last for long.

Or it could be that Barber simply likes making a mess, and he is having (unabashedly juvenile) fun with his ‘smoking’ sander. That the eight paintings in the room are not really the point of the project at all. But exhilarating catharsis is.

Or we could examine other possibilities: that with this current cold snap, Barber wants to lay over his austere landscapes a few whirling eddies of snow. (Perhaps you think this kind of talk is irresponsible? Far too flippant!)

Or maybe it is about architecture, and how a viewing space cannot be pried off the art object being scrutinised, that the two are one unit where spatial context is embedded within the image. That what is physically around a work is also within it – therefore making the frame as buffer an illusion, a fantasy that in reality is useless. Room and art object can never be separated.

What of a post-colonial interpretation? White dust that contaminates a pre-European landscape. These particles are colonial invaders you reckon? Could be about pakeha guilt as well, how it is impossible to enjoy landscape free from colonial history. Such pleasure cannot be innocent or pure now.

Visit the show, and any other interpretative possibilities you may think up, please send them in as comments. Tell me what I’ve left out, or which of the above is most apt. Which scenario is the most likely?


d.a.webby said...

Given a cultural pretext of home renovation as entertainment the artist come tradesman seems to be presenting the work within a context of plying ones trade (stated twice). The images respond as phantoms (as landscape), memories distilled – essential and residual.

John Hurrell said...

Yes, Daniel, it is a very apt point that tradesman thing. Especially with his performance last year at Gambia Castle.
I love your suggestion of landscape as phantom. Haunting and poetic.

John Hurrell said...

Artists' bios and intentions - I must admit I often have a problem with that side of things. I always tend to downplay it. Would rather restrict my analysis to what is apparent visually in the work. Of course I also realise such purity is impossible, but I'm extremely sympathetic.