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, June 4, 2009

Half a taste

Elam Graduate Work
152 pp full colour
University of Auckland
NICAI 2008

Here we have the second such yearly Elam graduate work book to come out, one that shrewdly promotes the institution and its graduates. Yet on close inspection a publication like this is not really practical. It is too skimpy to be anything other than a vague memento that old ducks can fondly look back upon in about five decades time – to help them reminisce over when they were sweet young things at uni.

It doesn’t actually provide much information. It should be in several volumes so everybody is included in a thorough fashion. Four books in a boxed set, with four pages given to each artist: three of images, one of text. Plus an account of what each course involves: their conceptual guidelines so the School’s aims can be assessed and compared with its competition.

That would be a substantial asset, one packed with ideas. Such tomes would then be highly sought by curators, collectors and staff-seeking employers.

Last year’s design with Kate Newby doing the cover was an inspired choice. This year, with Clara Chon, is disappointingly conventional. However the outer wrapping is not really the issue. The content needs to be pumped up several notches, to change it from a taste to a meal.


coals to newcastle said...


Forget the taste and the meal - what of the banquet? Where was your review of the show?

on close inspection a publication like this is not really practical.


John Hurrell said...

Well that is my point. What can you learn about an artist in one page? Not enough to take them seriously. They need to either pick out twenty of the best and publish a 'show' for each, or give everybody four pages.

Unknown said...

Hi John

Another important distinction to make is that the work featured on this years cover was not actually made for that context. It is not that obvious on the cover, but this work was actually painted on un-stretched canvas and (as I remember) nailed to the wall. It was never really intended to be viewed as a flat plane.

Newby's was interesting but as i understand it (somebody correct me if I'm wrong) she was commissioned to do the cover, which makes last years situation very different. Last year's title was also chosen by Newby. A stark contrast to the situation this year, where Chon did not get any choice in the title, or which of her images was used.

Like Newby, Chon's work was also featured on an Elam Open Days poster. Both posters were compelling but for different reasons.

Unlike the book cover, Chon was actually involved with conceiving the poster, and it functioned as a fairly subversive work. To me it seemed to comment on some of the flashy/colorful/exciting graphics featured in the marketing from some other tertiary institutions offering training in the creative arts (for want of a better term).

Many of the Faculty's prospectuses and brochures have been known to contain some fairly obvious or clunky photoshopping. In response to this, the poster also featured some fairly clunky photoshopping (stretching, warping, changed colours, that sort of thing). If you haven't seen the original image, you would be forgiven for not noticing it, it had to be subtle enough to get through marketing approval.

I agree that it would have been nice to include some writing, it really worked well in the previous year's catalogue.

Daniel Munn said...

Wouldn't that make your blog a snack? Or is it a beverage?

John Hurrell said...

To me Charles it just looks like using one more attractive woman's face to sell product. A tiresome design concept. So it is not Clara I am lambasting, rather it is erm...Warren Olds and Jim Speers(image editors). What do the teachers of Theory think of that,I wonder?

So Daniel,you mean this particular review, or my blog in general - how it functions in introducing shows to readers? I hope it whets appetites so people go and check stuff out. Then go home and post dissenting comments here.

Unknown said...

I guess I never really saw it like that.

For me, the woman in the work always functioned as a simulacrum of sorts: an enactment or surface copy of all the signifiers that make up an 'attractive woman.'

The image looks like it could have been taken from a L'oreal add or something like that (I don't have any idea where it's actually from). Even though it's partially disfigured, the woman's forced composure and assumed smile are still taken for granted.

I think that even as a book cover, the work manages to take one step back from (and discuss) the type of conventions you are describing, rather than becoming of them.

John Hurrell said...

I suppose the fact the image is split and wrapped around the spine gives your argument weight.
However remember though the whole reason for the project is marketing. And the fact this comes after the Newby cover - which seems comparatively radical - makes it look corny.