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, September 24, 2009

Printed media metaphor

Pauline Rhodes: Fluid connections 1980/2009
Jonathan Smart,Christchurch
25 September – 11 October 2009

Pauline Rhodes is a senior figure in the history of this country’s installation art, an artist known for resisting any commodification of her work by constantly reusing the materials of earlier projects – she has been exhibiting regularly since 1977 – and for exploring the phenomenology of the experience of landscape. Though she is highly regarded in her home town of Christchurch, Rhodes is comparatively unknown in Auckland – especially to a lot of younger artists and curators. This despite the fact she has had a major survey (2002) at the Adam (curated by Christina Barton, who also prepared a book on her practice).

Though Rhodes is often associated with the creation of forms and surfaces covered with rust stains (made by sandwiching canvas or paper between watered sheets of iron), or for activating open spaces through rows of diagonally aligned rods painted fluorescent green or draped rags of intense red, this exhibition in the inner Smart gallery is quite different. It features collaged surfaces that appear to be taken from the pages of The Guardian Weekly, the international journal that combines material from several European newspapers.

Using this fine type-covered tissue that bears stories of calamitous global events usually far away from Aotearoa, Rhodes has covered various items such as the skeletal frames of deckchairs, collapsible picnic tables, down piping, sawhorses, bowls and branches - as if they were detritus washed up from an ocean of print media language. Interspersed around them on the floor are cables wrapped in black velvety fabric, budles of green cord and red bandages, ventilation tubing and tumbling seaweedlike tarpaper.

The show’s theme seems to be that of community and geographic connectivity, that separateness and isolation are not possible, that even outside is really inside. Indoors no longer can have a membrane or protective barrier separating it from outdoors – the two cannot be divided.

'Flowing' or 'fluid' in Rhodes’ hands becomes a metaphor beyond landscape elements, now standing for the spread of information. River-like pencil lines drawn on suspended sheets of rusted flecked canvas don’t seem to be alluding to nature anymore in this collage smothered context. Landscape is a structure now submerged in something else, locality an element overwhelmed by much bigger forces. Ethical global responsibilities have become a more overt ‘spatial’ preoccupation.

Above images: Overall shot by the artist, separate details by Mark Gore

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