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, June 26, 2009

Making visible

Dark Matter: W. D. Hammond, Peter Madden, Andre Tjaberings
Curated by Simon Esling, essay by Anna Parlane
26 June - 24 July 2009

It is extremely interesting to see the sort of stellar line up like the above at a 'research' facility like Window, basically because the exhibtion is so mainstream, and not involved with experimental ideas at all. I would worry if suddenly all Window shows started becoming like dealer gallery venues or municipal gallery spaces, but Esling’s selection, presented with a black back wall (adding to the ambience of the thick tinted glass), seems to be a shrewd ploy to attract a new audience to the site. While I was there writing this, a number of people came over and examined the show – for Window on a Friday night, an unusual occurrence. Even in the entrance of a university library.

And so they should. The gothic theatricality works well. The largest work, a 1995 framed Hammond work on paper of an energetically tangoing couple accompanied a standing huia-man working on his laptop, a horse headed gentleman facing us while looking over a landscape on a pool table , and in the background another birdman in a state of reverie on a settee.

Peter Madden’s work looks superb here too: a glass sphere half full of gold leaf (opulence for its own sake); a ‘bush’ of hundreds of hovering butterflies suspended over a black prostrate skeleton; an amazing futurist portrait of a fissured fragmented face, with birds, fish, buildings, insects, plants and shells all exploding out of it.

The surprise is designer Andre Tjaberings; his two de Chiricolike graphite and wash drawings mix in Magritte and Piranesi to create a surreal, architectural space of crumbling three-dimensional geometry – immersed in billowing smoke. Not so ‘full on’ as his companions, Tjaberings has more delicacy and understatement, a stylistic restraint within his exploration of imaginary space.

Three cheers for Esling for doing this project, and a bouquet of flowers for not including his own work, as some artist-curators do. It is a little odd getting someone else to do the writing but Anna Parlane does a good (but very brief) job in grouping the three artists together under the astronomical title - with its references to invisible but detectable masses that play a crucial role in galaxy formation. Hopefully the project will win Window more visibility and more friends in the wider Auckland art community.

1 comment:

Simon Esling said...

Hi John,

Thanks for the comments. I'm really glad you have received the show in the way it was intended. I agree with you that the space should retain an experimental mandate and too many (shall we say) seductive shows would certainly skew things in a 'dealer/municipal gallery' direction. Having said that I don't think we should consider visually vibrant exhibitions as necessarily counter to a research-oriented approach for the space. I had intended to write a substantive essay which would have elucidated the reasoning behind the show and rationalised it's inclusion in the Window program. But unfortunately time fell short and I think Anna's press release was a succinct and suitable description of my intentions.

I'd still like to write the essay before the year is out. So hopefully I'll find the time to get it done.

One note: Andre's work is acrylic and egg tempera on aluminium.