S P A C E S at The Dowse – Exhibtion Review

Featuring artists such as Andrew Barber, Zac Langdon-Pole, Gavin Hurley, Kate Newby, Patrick Lundberg, Fiona Connor and Peter Peryer.

The Dowse Art Museum -13 Dec 2014 – 22 Mar 2015

By Kane Laing

Walking into the space of S P A C E S, the first words that enter my mind are “Looks like Contemporary Art”. It had a feeling of contemporariness with its mix of contemporary aesthetic tropes, the giant abstract canvas, the small paintings, the giant semi-abstract reduction painting, the recontextualised stack of bricks, the intimate black and white photo, and of course the removed and relocated staircases sculpture in the middle of the room. Not to mention the colour theme of grey and white.

On the wall-text of S P A C E S is written:

 “How do you exhibit architecture? The common answer is generally a combination of drawings, models, photography and film – media that may provide a helpful representation but can never quite match the experience of architecture itself. . . Through these works we may begin to notice the physical space around us, and start to ask questions: How much does architecture impact on art? How much does art impact on architecture? Is it possible for the spaces we see art in to be neutral? Are some spaces so interesting architecturally that they dwarf the art? Can art change the way we see and remember a space?”

I don’t feel like any of these really good questions were addressed, except maybe in the most vague manner that only contemporary artists could. It sounds like a wonderful seed to an exhibition, but in this case the exhibition bears boring fruits. The exhibiton was very cold to me and try-hard contemporary, I didn’t like it. It is the sort of exhibition that leaves me with the underwhelming feeling of “Art, who cares.”.

However it was still worthwhile seeing. The stair sculpture was actually totally reconstructed, which was interesting, but I then wondered if it was more interesting than bringing some real stairs in. I really like the painting by Patrick Newby and I am a fan of his stuff, but it does nothing for this exhibition. Some things are kind of nice but nothing gives the exhibition life. It isn’t a bad exhibition it’s just really boring.

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INSTALLATION VIEW WITH WORKS BY GAVIN HURELY, JOHN REYNOLDS & JULIAN DASHPER, AND PATRICK LUNDBERG. PHOTO: JOHN LAKE

I can see the interesting links to architecture in most of these works, but I felt uninspired and distant from the beauty or fascination that can be found in architecture everywhere. The wall text in the show is right on the money and I want to see a show that really embodies those questions. But, I’m sorry, 12 bricks stacked up is a shallow engagement with an interesting concept. To me that is the essence of what is wrong with contemporary art, it’s so vague and clinical, and it can be intimidating to some people when it is so inaccessible. I don’t think the public has to be spoon-fed and there is room for ambiguity and unknowing-tension in art, but at least make it engaging.

The alphabet-art show upstairs was much more fun.

Images taken from The Dowse website

http://dowse.org.nz/exhibitions/detail/spaces

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Blancanieves – Film Review

By Kane Laing

Fri 20 Mar 2015, 8:30pm (Films by Starlight – in Civic Square)

On Friday the 20th of march I was on my bike heading to the train station from university, I found myself cycling through Civic Square trying to find the fastest route to the train station. Obstructing my path was a crowd of people and a giant blow-up projector screen with a beautifully shot black and white silent film cast upon it. I thought to myself “Nice. That’s some beautiful cinematography”, and tried to weave through the crowd only to find there was no way out, and then i heard the incredible soundtrack and decided to watch for 30 seconds. I checked my watch and thought I could afford to watch for 10 minutes, that turned into 30, then into the rest of the 105 minute film (I managed to arrive at its beginning). It had sucked me in.

Blancanieves-Goya-Awards-web

Sometimes when you know nothing about a film or an artwork and you stumble upon it, you can have a more pure experience, because no thoughts or expectations are bought into the experience. This was the case on my viewing of Blancanieves, a black and white silent film by Pablo Berger. I also had no idea that it was made in 2012 and not in the 1920s. What grabbed me first was its beautiful cinematography, compositions that evoked nuanced emotions and that magic of a transcending experience with a piece of art. The quality of the visual language of silent film was also very sharp and authentic to 1920s silent film.

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The story follows a famous torero (matador) in spain who is mauled during a bull-fight and confined to a wheelchair, during this event his daughter is born and grew up not knowing her father. She escapes the clutches her father’s evil caregiver and begins her career as a torero with a travelling torero band. I had an inkling that I confirmed later that the film’s story was based on the Snow White fairy tale. The narrative is tastefully told and it is refreshing to have good visual story telling in a film, something that has suffered in the world of special effects and dramatic scripts.

The film setup in civic square by Films by Starlight is a wonderful and necessary part of cultural events in Wellington. If not for events like this, stumbling into a beautiful experience would not happen so often, and it is these accidental experiences where your art-guard is down that can be the most powerful and beautiful of all.

http://www.eventfinder.co.nz/2015/cadbury-films-by-starlight-blancanieves/wellington

https://www.facebook.com/FilmsbyStarlight

Mongrel Mob Portraits – Jono Rotman

By Kane Laing

Every once in a while an artwork, artist or exhibition pops into the mainstream media’s view, usually because of some controversy or how expensive some piece of art is. The latest to pop up is Jono Rotman’s Mongrel Mob portraits. It is a stunning exhibition in The City Gallery with beautiful large-scale prints and a tight and effective edit, there are less than 15 images in the whole show. The high quality of the photographic portraits coupled with the human-size images is compelling and engaging, as is the photographer’s subject.

The subject of this exhibition is The Mongrel Mob, which is undoubtedly a recognizable part of New Zealand culture, and it is something that is surrounded by fear and hate. It is fascinating to see individuals from an exclusive part of our society presented to the public in this way, especially with the saturation of imagery worn on the clothes and skin of the gang members. But what is this exhibition achieving or trying to achieve? What is the real effect of staging such an exhibition?

A friend of mine who works at the city gallery had a member of the public ask “What do you think of these dropkicks?”, right off the bat the distaste towards these individuals is obvious and clear. In the news, controversy has sprung up around a particular individual who was on trial for murder, saying that it was disrespectful to the victims to glorify the man in such a way. In the exhibition catalogue book Dr Ranginui Walker writes “These portraits challenge us to ask: what are the hidden and untold stories that underlie them?”. In essence this is what the question the exhibition is attempting to evoke. Rotman is trying to photograph a maligned people in a respectful and neutral manner. I believe that the humanity of the subjects is what shines through in these portraits and it does offer an opportunity for reflection on what lies underneath our facades.

However, there is no denying the culture these individuals represent. A culture of crime, murder, teenage prostitution, drugs and violence. A world hidden to most people in New Zealand and a world still hidden in this exhibition. We know the second-hand stories about the Mongrel Mob, the stories we bring into the exhibition to relate to the images we see. Is that dangerous? Is this exhibition a fetishization of our gang culture for middle class white people (aka gallery-goers) to get their fix on? How many people from cultures such as the one in the exhibition’s subject go to art galleries? And is this exhibition inherently glorifying this gang culture? I don’t know.

What is underlying these questions and this exhibition is the fact that all behaviours and cultures are learned and are a product of environment. What is it that produced this culture? Is the violence and gang structure taken from maori tribe culture? Or are the swastikas, imagery, drug culture and violent behaviour learned from the western colonial culture? These questions and debates are really important for our society, and I wonder if this exhibition does enough to support it.

Installation view at Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland. Photo: Tobias Kraus

‘In Review’ – Review Review

By Kane Laing

In Review – City Gallery

March 1, 2015
(an art review) by Sharon Lam

Trying to discover my next review topic, I wondered if it was possible to review a restaurant as an art exhibition and i wondered about the tropes of art reviews and art galleries. We only understand these things through conventions. I was then shown a review of the city gallery that nicely embodied these thoughts; In Review: The City Gallery by Sharon Lam.

“Immediately upon entry, an artist approached us and requested that we surrender our backpacks and coats—we were shocked! Although we were prepared for controversial avant-garde pieces, to be confronted so early on threw us off! Upon debaggaging our items, I felt my own personal baggage lightening, which I found worrying and alarming. “

This is obviously no ordinary review, it is a piece of creative writing pretending to be an art review, even going as far as to appear in Victoria University’s student magazine Salient. It’s beautiful.

On face value it is a silly spoof of art reviews and the conventions in contemporary art galleries, and it’s got some great lines that are pretty accessible for any one who has ever visited an art gallery. Perhaps it never aspired to be more than a comedy nugget, but underneath it does expose the conventions and tropes of art galleries and art reviews with their particular language and jargon.

If it wasn’t for the existence of the conventions there would be no comedy, the secret to good comedy is to point out reality and make the audience take a look at its absurdity. Conventions are helpful in creating context, which is important and if we had no conventions everything would be abstract and we’d get nowhere. But it is important to be critical of conventions as we can become complacent and take them for granted or without question, which does not help to produce an engaged, educated and progressive society. But comedy and satire are great tools in understanding conventions, they are accessible re-presentations of reality. In the case of this review it is maybe nothing critically ground-breaking, but it’s funny! I often feel like the most effective and on-point part of a news-paper is its political cartoons. But maybe that’s just me.

As sacred as art can be, we should never lose the ability to laugh at it and poke fun at something our culture (or high-culture) holds in such high regard in our culture.

Nice review, i give it 5 stars.

5 stars

(screen capture from Salient website)

http://salient.org.nz/2015/03/in-review-the-city-gallery/

http://citygallery.org.nz/

Pictures That I Gone and Done – Online Art Review

By Kane Laing

Throughout history the birth of new medias and new mediums has transformed the world of art. Perhaps the most transformative medium in history has been the internet. Can anyone with a media platform be an artist? What happens when everyone can have a media platform?

Chris Simpson Artist 2

‘Pictures That I Gone and Done’ by Chris (Simpson Artist) is an example of what once would be considered an outsider with a cult following, but with the internet he is now just a niche part of a mainstream media flow that doesn’t exist in the same way outside of cyberspace. Chris (Simpson Artist) produces digital drawings of mainly Simpsons characters, and also celebrities (especially in response to current events). But the images are disturbing, creepy and hilarious. With captions like: “get bent saggy” for Osama Bin Laden, “Yes we didn’t” for Obama, “I love skin, yes I knew” for Shrei and Trei of the Simpsons show.

It is something about combination of eyes, mouths and teeth with these captions that has a unique creepy-hilarious flavour. The captions and text has a distinct language also; his captions are always one long rambling sentence, with an obsession with certain words like idiot and loads, or body parts, or actions such as ‘lying down’. There is something so satisfying about seeing familiar characters or celebrities turned into these beautiful monstrosities with incredibly bizarre dialogue captions that can sometimes seem incredibly innocent. It feels too acutely aware of itself to be 100% genuine, but it doesn’t detract anything for me.

houston we have got a problem because the first ever man to have a walk on the moon neil amrstrongs has died. i think that it is always sad when a man dies and has to hold his wifes hand and say good bye to his wife and children for one very last time but i think it is even much more sadder when a man dies who has been and seen so much further and longer away than so many others could ever dream of in all of their dreams and since i was a little boy or 6 i have always gone and lay in my garden at night time and have a look up at the moon and when i look at the moon i always say inside of my head that a man lived on the moon once and i always say once really quickly so it is like i am being chased and even though he only lived on the moon for a few hours i think that we will see his face looking down at us for the rest of time whenever we have a look up at the moon and i know that tonight when it is the night time and i go outside of my house and i look up towards the moon in the deep and black and never ending blanket of space i will see neil armstrongs face looking down at me and he will be laughing his head off because he will think that i look so tiny because he is so far away from me and i will tell him that he isnt even far away at all because i know that whenever the glow from the moon lights up my bedroom at night time i know that it is just neil armstrong kneeling right next to my bed staring at me while i sleep and keeping me safe. good bye neil armstrong i will see you again soon my man in the moon. Chris (Simpsons artist) xox

houston we have got a problem because the first ever man to have a walk on the moon neil amrstrongs has died. i think that it is always sad when a man dies and has to hold his wifes hand and say good bye to his wife and children for one very last time but i think it is even much more sadder when a man dies who has been and seen so much further and longer away than so many others could ever dream of in all of their dreams and since i was a little boy or 6 i have always gone and lay in my garden at night time and have a look up at the moon and when i look at the moon i always say inside of my head that a man lived on the moon once and i always say once really quickly so it is like i am being chased and even though he only lived on the moon for a few hours i think that we will see his face looking down at us for the rest of time whenever we have a look up at the moon and i know that tonight when it is the night time and i go outside of my house and i look up towards the moon in the deep and black and never ending blanket of space i will see neil armstrongs face looking down at me and he will be laughing his head off because he will think that i look so tiny because he is so far away from me and i will tell him that he isnt even far away at all because i know that whenever the glow from the moon lights up my bedroom at night time i know that it is just neil armstrong kneeling right next to my bed staring at me while i sleep and keeping me safe. good bye neil armstrong i will see you again soon my man in the moon. Chris (Simpsons artist) xox

But is it art? How isn’t it art? Within an institutional framework it would probably be considered “outsider art”. But on the internet there is no such thing, I reckon. It’s a level playing field in cyberspace. For this sort of “art” that has been birthed by the internet, there is a link in the works content to its medium. The internet is inherent in what the work is and how it travels, and it may not survive in any other form. Chris (Simpson Artist) originally used facebook as his mode of dissemination but now also uses other avenues such as twitter and his official website where he sells merchandise with his images printed on it. It is a far cry from the Tate modern, but something about it’s humanity, innocence, hilarity and disturbing strangeness that makes it so compelling. As any great art is.

All images are by Chris (Simpson Artist), taken from his facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/TheSimpsonsArt

https://twitter.com/getbentsaggy

http://picturesthatigoneanddone.bigcartel.com/