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 5, 2009

Varied excellent photographs

Group exhibition: International photography
Gow Langsford
3 June - 20 June, 2009

There is a photography festival on in Auckland at the moment. This is the second one this year, and teetering towards overkill. (I say let the work strut its stuff alongside other artforms in its own time.)

So we have a very slick stock show at Gow Langsford. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing here that will rattle anybody’s cage in terms of production but quality images nonetheless. Prone perhaps towards a lot of attractive unclad female bodies - I don't want to overstate this -and so a bit trite.

Let’s think about that a bit more. Kim Joon digitally ‘moulds’ wallpaperlike motifs onto pairs of naked women in clinches. Their voluptuous flesh becomes patterned and embossed with strange textures and beautiful deep colours. The photos would be seductive even without the lesbian poses, with no bodies at all, but I’m curious as to what their mood would be with two guys or hetero couples. What sort of hormonal cocktail would be created for the viewer then? (This artist's website shows he is more varied in his use of models than this show intimates.)

Patricia Piccinni has a C-type of another glamorous unclothed woman. She is holding at arm’s length a white rat with a grafted ear on its back. Like Joon, a bit corny. The disturbing power of the mutated animal is undermined by the woman’s impeccably slender form. It destroys the impact of any moral questions the grafting might raise.

By the window Roland Fischer has a large portrait of a woman in a pool. Superficially it seems similar to Roni Horn’s well known suite of images of another young woman, also in a pool, but in Fischer the image is bigger, less about fleeting nuances of expression, and in his C-type, the blue water has more impact.

Actually as eroticism goes, Anthony Goicolea’s gorgeously grey landscapes, of digitally manipulated cable cars in fog or demolished buildings (containing sleeping people in hammocks), have a certain something. The images are wonderful but they are odd because they are not framed or under glass. They are fetish objects deliberately pinned to the wall, with little silver cylindrical bolts that run around the edges of the paper. The photographs become surrogate bodies: subtly beckoning sculptures to be looked at as well as through.

Such physicality is continued in the photographs of Marco Breuer. They look like grids of buildings at night but in fact haven't required a camera at all. These nuanced images, with very dark warm colours and tiny flares of light, are sheets of chromogenic paper scratched by using a ruler and razor blade.

Michael Wolf’s images of densely packed office blocks are like Andreas Gursky’s photos, but smaller with their repeated columns and fantastic acuity. They look digitally constructed but are not. The detail keeps you poring over the facades of these constructions, checking out each window, pondering every balcony, running your gaze down every vertical edge.

Similarly with Danwen Xing’s image of smashed up circuit boards, we examine rubble that looks like an aerial view of a city after an earthquake, the grid disrupted, pulled apart and shovelled in a crumbling heap.

Rebecca Ann Hobbs’ images of herself make her look like she is a ‘real’ person in comparison with the lithe and glamorous models, but don’t fall for it. For her images, her self presentation is just as much a construction as the blemish-free nudes - with specially picked ‘bag lady’ clothing and affectionate or hungry animals as props.

This very fine exhibtion is a terrific introduction to some superb overseas artists. You would be nuts not to see it.


gnute said...

The gallery assistant informed me that Michael Wolf's images of apartment blocks are not, in fact, digitally manipulated. The buildings really do look like that. Some people may say it doesn't matter - apparently Andreas Gursky once revealed that he digitally manipulated his images too - but that bit of info did alter my viewing experience of the works.

gnute said...

Oh, that was me.

-- Lydia Chai

John Hurrell said...

Crikey you are fast. I've just posted these.

Actually as it is a factual error I better correct it - despite it being understandable. Those buildings are amazing.

Nicola and Simon said...

How do you know that some of the Kim Joon’s are not hetero couples? Duet Pig and Duet W (both of which I noticed are omitted from your image selection) are quite ambiguous and very possibly male– wouldn’t you agree?

John Hurrell said...

Mmm you have a point. They are ambiguous. Could be straight couples. Definitely not pairs of fellahs though.