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.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Scrapping in the Cosmic Lobby

Matt Hunt: Battle for the World Hotel
Ivan Anthony
30 September - 24 October 2009

Matt Hunt is one of those ‘primitive’ or ‘folk’ painters whose endeavours have been attracting a following for a little over a decade now. He paints in a variety of sizes, exploiting different degrees of initmacy to get his spiritual message (which in essence stays much the same) across.

Hunt can be inconsistent. Sometimes his variety of Gospel Surrealism can be a little too regular in its placement of elements on the picture plane, or over balanced in its symmetry. However his best work is less rigid - more fluid in its composition and use of shape - with less sense of the Christian or science fiction symbols simply being just plonked onto the canvas in psychological isolation. Instead each protagonist in Hunt’s rich narrative contextually interacts with adjacent actors. They seem more aware of each other as living entities - instead of being predetermined symbolic pawns on a cosmic chessboard.

This artist has the persona of an obsessive proselytiser determined to save the souls of his audience. The gallery is his pulpit and his canvases sermons – each one based on a biblical verse quoted in the top right-hand corner. Like a heading in a personal letter. Yet they are also funny and trippily inventive. Otherwise you wouldn’t stick around to look at them. Unless you enjoy being preached at.

Hunt though, has more than Jesus on his mind. His images reflect anxieties about U.S. Foreign policy, cultural imperialism, the global eco-disaster, plus New Zealanders’ mindless consumerism, their sloth and moral decay. His use of science fiction seems to denote the forces of evil. There are definite binary distinctions of good versus bad within all his fanciful imagery: no nebulous qualities common to everybody in different amounts. As on a movie set, everybody is identifiable as hero or villain. It's clearcut.

Because these are quite large panoramas you can stand back to admire them from the other side of the room, or advance in close to read the tiny ranting texts in speech bubbles. Or scrutinise little figures up to no good in distant landscapes. They are functional works designed to serve a purpose as well as entertain. Made to encourage viewer movement: physical bodily action, and mental moral shifting - together.

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