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.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cerebral and muted

Yuk King Tan: Drummer
Sue Crockford
21 July - 8 August 2009

This current display by Yuk King Tan at Crockford’s consists of two videos on opposite walls, a large corrugated cardboard sculpture of a drum kit resting on a trolley, and a suite of ten computer drawings (modified by ink washes and spontaneous splashes) used in making of sculpture - and eventually, the video.

The drawings are topographical – like the well-known tramping maps - showing stratified layers from above. These particular ones have been used to computer cut corrugated cardboard that has been stacked and glued to make a drum kit and a lion. These light, three dimensional works are the key components in two ‘videoed performances’ made on the streets of Hong Kong.

One of these shows a young Hong Kong drummer using the sculpture as a real drum kit for some night-time practice, the dull thudding sound being similar (to be somewhat esoteric) to the occasion Ringo played a packing crate on Words of Love in Beatles For Sale (1965). Close inspection shows us that the drummer’s enthusiasm has left multiple indentations, crushing and tearing the paper ‘skin’ of the thin but hollow cardboard. The videoed ‘silence’ of this energetically played drum kit is a cynical comment on the communist take over of Hong Kong, the lack of public debate - and the disregard for the precious object is like King Tan’s red and green firecracker drawings (of the nineties) that were glued to gallery walls and then detonated.

The stratified cardboard drums are also interesting because of horizontal slicing of packed sections to render diagonal forms like snares or cymbals, or tilted stands, pedals and clips. The compressed forms are complex, the parallel lines relating to the vertically hanging tassels and threads of her early red and white wall masks as well.

Yuk King Tan’s second video features an elderly Chinese woman employed by the city to help keep the streets tidy by collecting waste cardboard and transporting it on a trolley to a rubbish recycling depot. Using a trolley she tows through the crowded streets the artist’s hollow, cardboard, life-size replica of one of the two bronze lions positioned by the entrance to the famous HSBC bank. The artist has asked her to take it to the rubbish depot, this action being a comment on last year’s banking crash, the plummeting of the RMB, and the superficiality of a ‘solid’ internationally reputable institution.

Of course the cardboard lion is not really abandoned in the depot to be crunched up, but neither does it find its way to New Zealand. We see it only as an image in half the drawings or as the much admired sculpture within the video. The printed and brushed drawings are intricate, surprisingly modelled and vaguely exuberant. Their graphic nature and lack of saturated colour is unusual for this artist, as is the brown cardboard in its chromatic restraint. Like the drummer’s attempts at percussion, a slightly muted exhibition. More cerebral and contemplative than visceral.

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