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, October 2, 2009

Positioning this, placing that

Collage: Mladen Bizumic, Ava Seymour, Richard Maloy, John Nixon, Gordon Walters
Sue Crockford
16 September - 3 October 2009

Collage is one of those techniques we tend to think of as a classic twentieth century method of image construction, but the fact that the Victorians were also entertained by it hints at its flexibility as an application for many different mind sets. This show presents several approaches, most as finished objects for contemplation, but not all.

With Gordon Walters it was an aid for visualising the planned musicality or rhythmic cadences of a koru composition, a means of mentally grasping vertical, horizontal, or diagonal formal connections, and their cumulative weight. Collage for him grew out of his early passion for Surrealism but became not the final artwork but a stage in a process that led to a later more polished result. Placement and scale were gradually worked on simultaneously.

Ava Seymour’s expertise focuses on collages that are constructed in order to be photographed. With the current work her nuances of edge are crucial: tiny shapes harboured inside the scalpel incised contours are formed by overlaid pieces cut out of furnishing or fabric catalogues. While there are delicate textural, patterned and tonal contrasts going on internally, it is along the perimeter, where colour meets the white background field that things get really interesting. Your eye scoots around the edge like a racetrack, enjoying each new corner or projecting bump it encounters.

Richard Maloy, like Seymour, is a gifted photographer, but how his images of improvised sculpture, using his own body with silver foil, fit in here I’m not sure. They don’t appear to be collage at all - whereas Mladen Bizumic’s images for example (on another wall) of sky inside strings of triangular pennants floating in front of Mies van der Rohe buildings are Photoshopped. They definitely have a collage sensibility.

Collage is normally linked to the substance of paper, but because of its twentieth century tradition that developed from Schwitters through Rauschenberg and others, that particular material has been replaced by other possibilities. Collage, it might be argued, is now more about a certain attitude to space, pictorial or real. Jessica Stockholder is a good example of this.

The fifth artist at Crockford's, John Nixon, has paintings from his Experimental Painting Workshop that are often with no added paper. Instead they incorporate other evocative materials like plastic packaging or aluminium strips. These, combined with his buoyant orange panels that allude to early modernism, help create a seductive physicality.

I just can’t imagine contemporary art, literature, or music existing without collage. It is a fundamental disposition inherent in most practice that accentuates the propensity for play - via juxtaposing various properties (semantic or formal) of materials. Since Freud we have been aware of its similarities with dreams, and the pleasures (or terrors) of being surprised by unforeseen connections. Artists who ignore such portable intricacies of placement are almost nonexistent.

(In descending order: Seymour (2),Walters(2), Maloy, Bizumic, Nixon. The Gordon Walters koru collage above (fourth down) is not in the show. However it is a good example of this stage in his painting process.)

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