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

Southern white wilderness

Joyce Campbell, Anne Noble, Connie Samaras: Antarctica
Gus Fisher
8 May - 20 June 2009

Two New Zealanders and an American team up for this show of Antarctic images, one that has been shown in bigger, more sprawling versions (such as at the Jonathan Smart Gallery in Christchurch), but which is particularly focussed at Gus Fisher, in its large oblong gallery.

It’s a snappy, vibrant presentation, with three high banners (photographs of icefalls) dominating the end wall. Six images each from Campbell and Samaras, and fourteen (some small, arranged in a grid) from Noble.

Many of the photographs explore humour based on architecture. Samaras’ four images of the Amundsen–Scott base show a huge boxlike dwelling with walls of compressed bison board. Mock crenulations are painted on the edge of its roof (a fake castle) and vertical black rectangles make up windows. Noble has an image of visitors examining a large photographic mural of an ice shelf in a museum in San Diego, and another shot in Wilhelmina Bay, where only ice on the ship’s railings indicates with certainty that this image is of the real thing.

Campbell has a small daguerreotype on a horizontal lid, projecting out from the wall, featuring a crevasse breaking open the flat horizontal ice. This joke seems to be more about the exhibition space that it is shown in, than any ice-dominated wasteland.

Other highlights are Campbell’s gorgeous gelatin silver image of morning light streaming over jagged peaks, and Noble’s shot of an aircraft runway, photographed from the air. Within the vast white expanse, the only clue to the scale is a tiny black flag stretched between two poles – positioned in the photograph’s centre.

For some, Samaras’ video loop of a seal surfacing in a blowhole will be a major treat. The bewhiskered blubbery mammal surfaces in front of a stationary tripod and wheezily expels from its lungs all stale air - before taking several deep breaths to recharge and then dive. It is amazing footage, poignant in the way the blinking, bleary-eyed animal suddenly emerges from the watery depths to look straight at the camera while catching its breath, and then three minutes later to plummet back.

Above image from Connie Samaras.


artandmylife said...

Interesting to read. I have seen some of the ice fall banners (Joyce Campbell) at the New Dowse and at the DPAG. At the Dowse they were displayed on columns and I thought it worked really well. On the big wall in Dunedin, they just didn't work as well and I found it hard to find a good place to view them.

John Hurrell said...

I gather they - three of them -were a last minute addition. They added a lot of grunt to the show, being shrewdly positioned in the GF.

John Hurrell said...

Those interested should look at Joyce's website: