Leisure Valley. Gavin Hipkins.
4 April -17 May 2014. AUT St Paul Street Gallery.
ROMANCING THE STONE
I consider myself to be occasionally impotent and unable to perform the task of reciprocating pleasure when I view art. Part of what I find intriguing about art is that sublime stuff – the ahhhh, that speaks to my core. Intellectual yada yada is great but if I’m being completely honest, I am expecting the big reveal. I know that as an audience member, expecting to be impressed and challenged to that degree by every artist is a high expectation and a completely unfair burden. Having said that, that’s just how I feel at this moment in time.
I felt this sublime hocus pocus when I viewed Gavin Hipkins’ latest Leisure Valley at St Paul Street gallery, AUT. As a fellow Brutalist architecture appreciator, Gavin’s photographs of the ruins of Chandigarh, India – a city designed by Le Corbusier & Co – moved me. I see the large format photographs on newsprint of partially disintegrated architecture, and representation of a Utopian ideology, which has literally deteriorated over time.
Gavin’s work makes note of the romantic-ness of the ruin. I find that when artists bring attention to these seemingly underwhelming and undervalued sites, in actual fact these places rarely go unnoticed. As if discovering treasure, the ruin is the artist’s gold. We tend to the ruin, permitting access to outsiders as if we ourselves had created the found ruin. It may have been that when I viewed the work, I was in the vast St Paul Street gallery space on my own, confronted by a plethora of stylised images of desecrated buildings or rather neglected abandoned sites, that for some reason or another didn’t quite work out. It was much like I had stumbled upon my own romantic ruin.
The video work The Port screened in the other smaller gallery. I had walked into this room and there was already another person present. I had walked into his ruin. We proceeded to watch the various video clips. He left about ten minutes in, I stayed until I realised that it was looped footage with a continuing passage over the loop. Although the film work did not resonate with me as much as the large scale prints, I had a connection with the cinematic experience. A dark room, a stranger, a common thread, while simultaneously experiencing the same solitude, when the stranger left, I then took ownership of the space and then left willingly, allowing the next stranger to be the dominant audience. To me, this is why the work, works. The romanticism that even the proletariat non-artist can relate to, I think.
To address my earlier expectations and be fair to the role of the artist in general, ruins must first be built. They start out as foundations that eventually crumble. While Gavin Hipkins makes use of the ruin as it is, perhaps other contemporary artists attempt to build something first and have it run its course, before musing on the work’s failings and starting the rebuild.
Photo Credit: Natasha Matila