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, December 15, 2009

Elizabeth Thomson: lost in space

Elizabeth Thomson: La Planète Sauvage
Two Rooms
24 November 2009 - 22 December 2009

This Liz Thomson show is a step backwards from the sparkling fluoro, overly complicated, glass ‘mini-mattress’ relief sculptures she showed upstairs at Two Rooms last year. She has reverted to the plant forms she is famous for by attaching the small, painted zinc, pohutukawa leaves to shallow-relief ‘planet’ discs and wall surfaces to make up a sort of dotty linear drawing. It looks as if she has made too many tiny leaves and rather than throw them away wasted, decided to keep on using them, even in ‘outer space’ where in that context they look ludicrous.

Apart from the irritating leaves, the drawings of ellipses in perspectively receding alignments (Astrophysics Series) look intriguing – foreshortened saucers on the flat surfaces of relief discs is a clever idea with great visual wit. And the large white projecting shallow disc (Voyage Sauvage) on the other side of the room, peppered with glass ‘mothballs’ on sticks, is absorbing too, with the small balls serving as microcosms to the ‘mother’-macro.

Thomson’s ‘Planète Sauvage’ series are strikingly dramatic lunar images, but spoilt by being shallow relief. Flat discs flush with the wall, devoid of mass, would have been less clunky and, if less over-elaborate in surface textures, much superior. And the huge perspective ‘leaf’ drawing of receding ‘Versailles’ runways on the large wall looks like a strange form of oddly delicate folk art. It is too awkward to succeed because the different–sized leaves and horizontal ovals don’t quite co-ordinate to match the angle of the tilted lanes.

There is nothing here that is a total success – usually because the smooth rounded contours of the three-dimensional circles are such a distraction – but Voyage Sauvage comes close with its comparative understatement and reflexivity. It alone is worth a second visit.

The Shimmering Lakes ‘wall drawing’ image above is at Mark Hutchins Gallery, Wellington.

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