23 August – 02 November. Christchurch Art Gallery.
Encountering Reels, knights and other tomorrows by Edwards and Johann at the Christchurch Art Gallery asks more questions than it answers. These questions aren’t inquisitive, but have become stale and recursive. It is a show which is both accessible and features Christchurch based artists, but lacks any critical integrity and cohesive curation. The exhibition consists of a series of brightly coloured sculptural works made from rubble from a former church’s organ. This rubble sits as a constellation atop a metal poll. In each room is a series of wall works; a sound work made in collaboration with Seth Edwards Ellis permeates softly and often un-noticeably through the space.
Upon entering we were taken aback by the cold and austere reception by gallery staff, the inconsistent nature of the lightning and the insensitive use of materials, which inherently harbours a sense of place and memory. The first room of works was incredibly dark and had three sculptures and a wall of rubble rocks on brightly coloured screens. The flatness of these rocks commodified both the materials and the experience of the Christchurch Earthquakes. The rocks trivialize the Earthquakes and renders the works superficial, especially given the use of sound, which seemed like an attempt at conveying emotional depth. The sound also seemed like an attempt to acknowledge where the materials came from. The use of colour was garish and followed the rhetoric around Christchurch needing to ‘brighten up’ and remain positive following the devastation of the Earthquakes. The darkness in the room created shadows from the sculptures, which was confusing in relation to the brightly lit appearance of the second room. This darkness was aided by both the sickly sweet smell throughout the room and the dreary nature of the carpet, which created a stronger sense of alienation and confusion.
In the second room was a series of portraits of ‘knight’ like figures dressed in rounds of fabric with flashes of colour popping through. The portraits sat unevenly in front of a wall painted with a strip of black. The use of this black paint seemed pointless and only drew attention to the inconsistent manner in which the works were hung. Again the room featured a series of these sculptural assemblages which had no clear relationship to the works on the wall.
Overall it is disappointing that a major institution would not show critically engaging work. The wall works in this show seemed irrelevant and indeed the entirety of the show lacked any semblance of interconnection. Even the sculptures which had some aesthetic merit needed to further emphasize their otherness. Reels, Knights and other tomorrows seemed to be a rushed, miscommunicated show, which harboured little to no sense of locality, despite the artists being based in Christchurch. These works seemed to oscillate between banality and confusion, as they do not communicate anything succinctly and there is no fluidity between the spaces. Rather the show is superfluous and is unable to articulate any clear ideas.
Hana Aoake, Victoria Carran, Zoe Crook and Louise Rutledge