All posts filed under: Reviews

Inside Outside Upside Down at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Inside Outside Upside Down brings together the work of five New Zealand contemporary artists – Kate Newby, Simon Denny, Ruth Buchanan, Fiona Connor and Ronnie van Hout. Housed on the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki’s first floor, the exhibition is made up of work from the gallery’s own collection. Connecting the works is a shared appreciation for the everyday, a conflation of ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ within the confines of a gallery. The exhibition is arranged as a series of five rooms, each dedicated to one of the aforementioned artists. The first room belongs to Ronnie van Hout’s No Exit II (2003), a strange space of sights and sounds. Van Hout’s work explores the boundaries of interior space, applying the simple inversion of bringing the outside in or the inside out. A small video monitor flickers within the hollows of a van Hout tree trunk, the artist repeatedly fights and argues in a room with his alter egos – Monkey Man and Dog Man. The indication of multiple personalities links to the artist’s focus upon …

Your Body is Yours at the National Museum of Art, Osaka

Particularly noticeable on the train, in Japan everyone appears to maintain their outward appearance to a very high degree. Almost everybody, regardless of age, has at least one carefully considered aspect to their style, be it a new season jacket or sneakers, flawlessly made up face / hair, or slender arms placed either side of a spotless sleeveless blouse. It seems like everyone’s (makes themselves) beautiful here, like it’s a given that all surfaces be cared for and are inherently (worthy of being made) (to look) beautiful. Or perhaps it’s more just an outsiders view of a strange uniformity or order. Genetic ties to Japan may be why I have this impression, which continues to be childishly wide eyed as it is searching and cynical, although Japan’s refined aesthetic sensibility is no doubt a hugely prominent part of the culture. How this aesthetic concern or care has actually practically taken shape – how and why the many amenities that are overly abundant in Japan today came to be so meticulously considered and designed – while …

Death Workshop at Enjoy Public Art Gallery

Contingencies It will be quiet. All of my friends will be there. I’ll take an innocent looking pill on the morning of my 40th birthday and slip away peacefully. My friends will drink cheap red wine and smoke in my honour. By this point cigarettes will have to be ordered on the darknet, paid for in Bitcoin, and imported inside small bags of ecstasy which is now very legal and deeply uncool. I will have achieved everything I set out to achieve and I will no longer be afraid of anything. This is how I have decided to die. This is also a misinterpretation of the task at hand. In Hiroharu Mori’s Death Workshop, students are asked to imagine and rehearse the circumstances of their own deaths, rather than how best to make themselves comfortable with dying. It is an exercise in probabilities, in ordering disasters both big and small according to how easy they are to imagine. There is an earthquake, a sudden death in an office building, a stereo stands in for a …

Woollaston: The Wallace Arts Trust Collection, 1931 – 1996 at Wallace Gallery

Toss Woollaston along with Colin McCahon are old enough and dead enough to be regarded as the grand old men of modern New Zealand art. McCahon always got the lion’s share of recognition and adulation, mainly because he was the more innovative and conceptually daring. He was forgiven his religious obsessions from a largely secular and disbelieving public on the grounds of his pioneering, evolving style and inventive means of addressing his audience. His influence lives on, even in the form of parody. Michel Parekowhai, for one, had a go at the famous, I AM.  No such legacy lingers around the work of Woollaston, perhaps because it lacked any existential or intellectual angst to provide academic leverage or traction to serve ongoing interest. What the artist served up was essentially a visual feast to do with colour, form and composition. No angels of annunciation hover over Woollaston’s landscapes. No finger wagging biblical text waves in front of the foothills.        What Woollaston presented us with was essentially bravado with the brushstroke, the manipulation of a …

These stories began before we arrived at Te Tuhi Offsite

The accompanying publication for These stories began before we arrived tells me that this exhibition has honest beginnings. Combine an opportunity from the 2015 Taipei International Book Exhibition, three curators who went on the Asia New Zealand Foundation/Creative New Zealand curator tour together and New Zealand’s recent aggressive move to the inclusion and exchange between us and targeted Asian countries and art communities. Voilà — there you have it — a narrative heavy exhibition of New Zealand and Taiwanese artists structured on the connector of Austronesian migration. I turned up to the silos on a friday afternoon. The show looked good. It was conceptually tight. The install was slick. The custom-built projection suspenders and screens — the perfect size for each silo — were impressive. Chang En-Man’s Arena is entrancing. The smooth panning and image quality draws you in and the subtitled narrative keeps you there. A focus on the effects colonisation and industrialisation have had on Indigenous Taiwanese parallels our local interest spike in Indigenous empowerment. Picking up on the odd chicken walking across …

Backbone at The Banff Centre, Canada

At the end of August this year The Banff Centre in partnership with Red Sky Performance showcased the premiere of Backbone (2015) is an Indigenous dance piece crafted to depict the idea of the mountains being the spine of the Americas. With a troupe of mostly Indigenous dancers, the show unfolded brightly with a Fijian dancer  placing the South Pacific on stage. I felt right at home. The lights lowered, the atmosphere changed and movement began immediately. The choreography poured through intense and high energy technical pieces that favoured the male dancers. The muscular physiques led into fast sequences, dramatised within the theatre environment and moving effortlessly from one excerpt to the other. Backbone was dreamt up by the Director of Indigenous Arts Sandra Laronde and was produced in collaboration with Jera Wolfe (Co-Choreographer) and Thomas Fonua (Faculty/Co-Choreographer). With a strong presence annually in Banff, Fonua is featured in many of the photographs that advertise the Banff Indigenous Dance Residency and his role as faculty and performer has allowed him to form strong relationships with …

Dovetail Dreams at David Lloyd Gallery

Agnes Dean was a cabinetmaker. That’s a somewhat startling piece of information when you consider the detail. A woman and with the name Agnes, would put her back somewhere in the early part of the twentieth century. Furniture making, of course, was the preserve of men, along with all the other ‘manly’ professions. To be born female and in 1920 or thereabouts would be a recipe for the predetermination of one’s role, clearly defined and limited to the narrow confines of domestic help, nursing or occupations of similar ilk. But Agnes broke the mould in conservative England where social parameters were rigidly set and strictly followed. What helped Agnes Dean was the fact that her foray into an exclusively male domain happened during the war years where all the traditional gender roles, of necessity, were, at least temporarily, abrogated. Men in large numbers conscripted for war meant shortages on the home front which were filled by women, who kept “the home fires burning”. Thousands worked in munitions factories for which Rosie the Riveter was the …

The Story of Rama at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

In the upstairs pink-washed interiors of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, the god-king Rama is depicted with celestial blue skin, using pigment made from crushed lapis lazuli. All colours, obtained through natural processes by pounding vegetables or powdering rocks, are applied with a single-haired squirrel brush, and Rama’s jewels, almost imperceptible, are made of fireflies with clipped wings. Courtesy of the National Museum, New Delhi, The Story of Rama is an exhibition of 101 miniatures from 16–19th century India, which together retell the Sanskrit epic-poem Ramayana. It is a story that is fundamental to the cultural consciousness of India, and is at the heart of the Hindu moral compass. It is very difficult not to be awe-struck, almost moved by the loveliness of these works. The technical mastery is exquisite and the presentation in the gallery is equally lush. But these are cultural objects of historical significance to India, and the deeper significance any viewer here might find seems contingent on the viewer’s capacity to re-orient themselves in two different ways, to two different …

The Emperor’s New Clothes at Wallace Gallery Morrinsville

The old story of the Emperor’s New Clothes can be read in any number of ways; how politicians are easily duped, how mass conformity operates and so on. It can also be viewed as an exemplar of alternative perception, the outsider view. This is how curator James R Ford has chosen to understand the fable, using it as the title and focus for the exhibition currently showing at the Wallace Gallery in Morrinsville. Given that the role of art, as some see it, is to “strip the veil of familiarity from things”, as poet Shelley once claimed, or to provide an unorthodox perspective, then Ford is in good company and the works in the show certainly provide an oblique angle on a range of subjects. One of the most arresting of those is a gem of a piece, by Sanjay Theodore, unprepossessing in its form, (it is simply a found bit of paper which has been then photocopied) yet provided with an ironic and satirical setting by having it placed inside an elaborate gold frame. The …