Then and Now, Here and Nowhere – Exhibition Review

By John Fuller

Then and Now, Here and Nowhere – Adam Art Gallery, Victoria University Campus, Kelburn.

3 February – 12 April 2015

Artists: Gavin Hipkins, Peter Trevelyan, Shaun Waugh, Kates Woods and Brent Wong

The Adam Gallery is my favourite place for contemplating art in Wellington. Somehow, it works for me on a number of levels. The Adam flatters average art and makes great art shine. Perhaps that is what a well designed gallery is supposed to do. The current exhibitions (all three) are packed full of great art, so go and take a look, I can’t say much more than that.

This review will focus on “Then and now, Here and Nowhere”. The exhibition only features a few works, and plays on an interesting strategy of locating pieces from different artists and different generations side by side, challenging the viewer to think about what may have changed and what remains constant. Brent Wong’s arresting surrealist pieces from the late 60’s sit surprisingly comfortably with Kate Wood’s very contemporary and rather hypnotic video work, or her 3D photographic studies, which exist slightly awkwardly I feel, somewhere between kitsch and the sublime. Both artists attempt to fool around with the mind of the viewer, spark the imagination, question reality. Both do this successfully and both complement one another, despite the generational rift.

Gavin Hipkins and Shaun Waugh use photography to play similar games. Hipkins large work, “The Model (1999), is a dynamic series of small photographs featuring mathematical multi-faceted objects from the Victoria University Mathematics Department. The work can be reconfigured each time it is installed. It dominates the entire double level wall inside the Adam entry foyer and could arguably be called sculpture. Waugh plays with surrealism, but exploits digital technology to replace paint and brush. Again both these artists sit comfortably beside Wong in spite of time.

Arguably the odd one out in this picture is Peter Trevelyan. His sculptural piece is not typical of other work I have seen before. It plays on the notion of concealment, secret hiding places, in this case a cut out book amongst other books on a table. Of course the concealed compartment contains a small and delicate lattice type structure he is so well known for. For me, and I may be missing something here, this work does not sit well with Wong, but then again that may be the whole idea.

How have times changed? Artists have creative tools in 2015 that Brent Wong would not have even been able to imagine in 1969, yet he was able to create a surreal world with his paint, a world that shares so much with the work of these contemporary artists. It makes one wonder what he could do with an iMac and a digital camera.

Image. The Keeper. Brent Wong. (1969-75), oil on board

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