Comment 1

Two in the Pink at North Projects

This show comes from disparate neighborhoods. Queens nail art meeting Manhattan abstraction, Gemma Syme and Imogen Taylor do not collaborate at North Projects; rather they share space like they would a subway trip in New York City. Breathing the same air – they don’t acknowledge one another. Habit their touchstone; the only link between them is commuting.


Gemma Syme’s practice is described and supplemented with quotes akin to “Gemma Syme believes art is important and awesome”. Imogen Taylors blurb is a list of her past shows and education history. The poster is of a quality and symbology that is popular in Christchurch at the moment: made with the reisograph, it is coloured with pink and purple hues, elaborated by simple but masculine typography.

On a surface level there are a myriad of paintings dotted throughout North Projects. These works resemble early Picasso or cubist structures/geometric form. They are in muted tones, and sit atop hessian, grey cotton, wire mesh and other industrial media. These are by Taylor.

To see but not read; there is a large flat screen on an easel.

The video that plays, frames the midrift and pelvis area of a person wearing grey Y-front underwear. The loop that runs, presents a process of said figure placing various objects down the y-fronts. These objects include deodorant and sunscreen; each disparate item is graced with a series of movements – whether it be a thrust, gyrate or hip-swing.  This is by Syme.

The interior design presents a small table with two chairs opposite one another. This fits perfectly into a small room that is utilized as a thoroughfare. The seats are occupied. Gemma Syme, with back to the wall, sits unescapably – facing a changing seat. She is a picture of Frenchie from Greece, with her hair and retro clothing, (she does not however wear a Pink Ladies Jacket). Those present in the latter seat seem to be receiving a singular nail manicure. The acrylic nails are painted with abstract patterns in bright colors, but they are not unique, there are multiples of each pattern. Likewise, the conversation that is exchanged over the table is not personal in a mutual sense, but perhaps intimate in a choreographed, small talk sense. They are interspersed with Syme chewing gum.

All three of these propositions have energy and potential, the problem lies in that before the viewer can muse upon the muses involved, their ‘seeing’ is abrupted by ‘looking’. The image closed to mental penetration, the result is that of Sandy’s first impressions of the Pink Ladies. A facile reaction, by reiterating what has already gone before, but not fully making it their own, the works are turned into a series of symbols. This is not to say that reiteration is a bad means of communication, nor is symbology, but both only work when they precede a trajectory rather than a product. When the nail salon is indulged as a beauty parlor, symbolism translates into tokenism.

Partaking in a conversation about woman in painting or disrupting gender binaries are worthwhile discussions, but not if they only offer a superficial display. The origin of the works does not evolve from the in-between, the pink. We never find out the origin of the pink, just as we were not privy to an elucidation of red and white.

Two in the Pink could be making grand gestures towards a growing dissidence in art galleries. But the exposition does not appear. Perhaps one red and one white. Perhaps both pink. Perhaps the space pink and the two empty. Those two in the pink, breathing North Projects suburban bungalow air, remain just so, in a space of domestic habit.

Zoe Crook

This entry was posted in: Reviews

1 Comment

  1. #500words says

    After receiving an email from the crew at North Projects – we felt it was important to include the below information. While we didn’t feel a need to edit further Zoe’s article (the original was published on EyeContact at the above link) we do advocate for the voice of the artist, gallery and curator as well as of course the writer.

    “We are concerned about the reference made to Gemma’s outfit as a cornerstone in discussing her performance, this is a misrepresentation of the opening night performance as a whole. Zoe’s description of the outfit is misleading as Gemma was not wearing 1950s clothing and was dressed in a red jumper and psychedelic t-shirt, as was Imogen. The Pink Ladies reference, while perhaps a point of departure for the writer, makes this sound like a Greece or Americana themed exhibition, which it was not. Another small detail (which we corrected in a public comment on the published Eye Contact iteration of this review) is that Imogen’s paintings are not A4 in size. North Projects is also not located in a surburban villa, but a converted 19th century bungalow on one of the City’s four central avenues.

    Although Zoe’s review brings up some really interesting issues, the liberties taken with these key details are frustrating for those involved in Two in the Pink, particularly as most of the audience for #500 is based in Auckland and won’t have seen this exhibition in the flesh.

    Had Zoe engaged with the performance when she was present at the opening, she would also have been aware that the nails were not only ‘abstract patterns’ but that each was a replica of a specific painting of Imogen Taylor’s. While an exhibition review obviously doesn’t have to consist of a list of facts about a show and the agency of the writer/critic is really important, as writers ourselves we feel that a reviewer should be self-reflexive about their position and level of engagement with artworks (which in this case was very minimal).

    We welcome and celebrate criticism about our shows, and thank Zoe for contributing to this discussion, but feel we do have a responsibility to the artists we work with to ensure that this criticism is grounded in accurate information.”

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