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.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Fleeting ripples

John Ward Knox: Toward a still life
Tim Melville Gallery (2 Kitchener St)
18 August - 12 September 2009

At Tim Melville’s - just across from Auckland Art Gallery – John Ward Knox presents one drawing and one relief sculpture. Collectively they make up an installation, interacting to create a third artwork out of their spatial and semantic relationship.

The relief sculpture consists of concentric ripples carved into a plaster wall and sanded so they look like sagging flimsy sheeting, held up by a row of five pins. They are raked with soft natural light coming in the window. The framed, mounted drawing is small, about two postage stamps high, and is on an adjacent wall parallel to the footpath.

Ward Knox’s image is created with black biro in such a delicate manner it looks like pencil, and seems to be quoting a scene from a film – possibly French. It shows a woman in a nightie caressing a bare-chested man lying in bed. We can’t see above his shoulders but the scene seems post-coital. Scattered throughout the drawing are dark specks made of gunk from biro-ink residue.

So how can we speculate about John Ward Knox’s choice of image here and how it might connect with biros and rippled sheets? Is the sheet a shroud, a reference to ‘a little death’, to the fleeting nature of desire that moves like winter light across a wall? Should we contemplate the transience of love, ponder over the spent secretions of a ballpoint?

Perhaps the energies underpinning making the drawing parallel carnal desire in its accelerated drive for completion. Maybe the suspended sheet is a veil for the veneer of love, the illusion of permanent happiness – a reference to melancholy.

Whatever the situation, this evocative nuanced exhibition is worth seeing. Its poetic layering stays with you, and has to be experienced firsthand. Images blown up on computer screens (like those above) don’t cut it.

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