Corrugations: The art of Jeff Thomson – Publication Review

First published 2013

Tauranga Art Gallery Toi Tauranga

By Sarah Kennedy

This publication explores the journey of an artist who has made a big achievement over the past three decades in New Zealand and also overseas with an insightful narrative of what it took to make it in the art world. Jeff Thomson is a New Zealand sculptor who is well known for his corrugated iron works. His explorations of this specific material enabled him to explore the process of shaping and cutting, weaving and French knitting, cladding, roofing, printing the surface, cutting, stacking, braiding and moulding to make objects that seem at odds with the material they are made of.

The very beginning of his successful career started from long distance walks from place to place in rural areas of New Zealand fascinated by their mailboxes. In 1981 Jeff Thomson walked from Bulls to New Plymouth and along the way started to put letters in mailboxes, telling people about himself and his work, proposing that he would make an artwork for them. From the 350 letters delivered Thomson had received seven responses back with the owner’s interests, and set off constructing mailboxes personalised each by a sculpture. These works appeared in his first solo exhibition ‘Mailboxes’ in 1982 Auckland dealer gallery, RKS Art and in 1984 featured in Bowen Galleries, Wellington with the first time using corrugated iron of a cut–out shape of a cow. This show attracted attention from the public and opened up the opportunity where people were asking for him to make works of what they wanted with this material. The artist also sent proposals to galleries and got many offers in artist residency, and his public sculptures are seen all around New Zealand and is productive finishing commissions for offshore clients.

Jeff Thomson is a busy man, constant in demand. The very nature of his work reaches a variety of audiences because it is memorable, humorous and the way he uses corrugated iron to make common everyday objects we are familiar with is extraordinary. The publication is a useful tool to read and make a connection with his work, experiencing works you’ve seen already and discovering new works. In awe I’m inspired by his work because of the artist technique in mastering the kiwi material of corrugated iron and unlimited imagination to make anything possible for the people.

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Wellington Performance Arcade – Exhibition Review

By Mayke Blom

18-22nd February 2015

I walk around and through carefully placed sets of shipping containers, each one containing a performed installed artwork. There is a bar and a stage and seating welcoming the passers-by to socialize and pause a moment to peek around corners and engage with a fleeting experience. The 5 day show runs all day and into the hours of the evening until dark.

I feel curious and confronted with contrasting performances that ask me to engage on many different levels. There’s a studio set up like a stage, asking for requests of personal stories, a peep-hole to look at a star-wars psychologist where people open up about their feelings in a closed off room. Or stand in front of a photographer who decides to take your picture whilst she’s nude. Some of the less confronting works are passive observational pieces or are devoid of human interactions altogether. This includes work like time machine where you can zip back and forth to reflect on passers-by of the waterfront. Or Rainscape, a passage from one end of the container to the other, engaging with the textures, sounds, the density of the air and visual effects.

The flurry of diversity and the way it engages as an intervention of an everyday space encourages me to see it as an amusement park of art ‘objects’. Some of the works are out of containers and are moving through the city, really pushing for the manifestation of art to integrate into the spirit of ‘creative Wellington’. I feel like there is a drive for continued engagement as a yearly event, offering an opportunity for artists to reflect in art making of changing presentation landscapes.

I feel like when art tries to engage with a public audience the reactions are limited and the time spent with the works is reduced. The experience/intervention becomes a memory through the media, and identifies within the contained space of the urban and of the shipping container, confining the work dimensional limitations. However of course these limitations are innate unless of course you introduce the use of audiovisual installation, in which the performance arcade successfully integrates the variety of works this year.

I like how this event is transferable to other urban environments, with shipping containers being a globally accessible object. I feel like the independent works could function a bit more successfully on their own as they sometimes blend into one another, perhaps through practical application.

Having been involved as a volunteer in the set-up of the work, I think the Performance arcade has definitely developed since its first production 5 years ago. As an interventionist event it challenges new modes of presentations of performance art and culturally increases accessibility and awareness of performance art practice. As well as strictly performance works, the arcade travels across art disciplines to include AV set ups, installation and object art, interactive and combining media enhancing and questioning the context of installation and performativity space.

The arcade interprets an artwork as a performed space, an interactive experienced environment between a staged spatial or figurative composition. This environment would definitely help me better comprehend audience engagement and interactivity through use of limited space within my own work as a semi-interactive audiovisual installation.

Yvonne Todd: Creamy Psychology – Exhibition Review

By Grace Hunt

December 06 ‘14 – march ‘15

I visited Yvonne Todd’s “Creamy Psychology” at City Gallery the day before it was being downsized; in total there was around 150 photographic works by Todd, the first time the City gallery has given over so much space to one artist. The first thing I noticed about this exhibition was the sheer amount of work By Todd that was on display, I found it to be kind of overwhelming and lost interest relatively quickly because lots of her photographs depict very similar things (Heavily made up women in a commercial photographic setting with something slightly off kilter seemed to be a reoccurring motif). I would’ve liked to revisit this exhibition when it was downsized to see if it made any difference for me.

I then noticed the presentation of these images differed from the more traditional way in which photographs are hung; many were hung in clusters at differing heights. I presume that this was a conscious choice to hang them in such a way was to further emphasize the off-kilted nature of the photos, however I found it to be more of an annoyance than anything because it meant I had to the images longer to figure out what was “off-kilter” about them and wondered if it was really necessary.

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What I enjoyed most about this exhibition was being able to have small glimpses into the behind the scenes of Todd’s photos, on the second floor of the City Gallery there was a collection of vintage gowns owned by Todd that were alongside some of the photos they were used in. There was also a collection of her workbooks with tests and ideas before they had come to fruition on display. I personally enjoyed this bit the most because I am intrigued by the work that goes into creating photographic works, I think that the effort put in to photography is often overlooked because of how instantaneous the final product is.

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

INFLECTED FORMS by Shaun Gladwell – Art Review

SHAUN GLADWELL – INFLECTED FORMS

By Kerry Males

Shaun Gladwell is an Australian born artist and skateboarder. Gladwell primarily works in digital art and describes his video works as performance landscapes , Gladwell also works in  painting , photography  and sculpture. His works are usually influenced by a site and the ways that inhabitants form relationships with environments. Gladwell is well-known for his video work Storm Sequence, that sold for $84,000. Inflected Forms is a series of interactive public art sculptures that are based in Christchurch. The works are a series of large grey metal objects that are similar looking to skateboarding ramps, the sculptures are functional and are site based. The metal objects are a platform for a skateboarders urban innovation or adaptions. All the sculptures have been divided with a large split through the centre of them, which is a reference to the surrounding site that has been damaged by the Christchurch earthquake.

Gladwell states he is interested in the ways the public will react to the sculptures and how they will be treated. Inflected Forms was strongly influenced by a short five minute skateboarding film called Quaked, a film that was made by local skateboarders in Christchurch soon after the earthquake hit.  Gladwell says he was intrigued by the way that the  local skateboarders adapted to a new environment so quickly and how they reacted to the new broken forms.I found Gladwell’s work interesting because Gladwell thinks of public art forms as forms to be skated , and I feel that is more of a skateboarders frame of mind rather than an artist critiquing other artists art. However I do feel that Gladwell’s thinking towards public art does complement Inflected forms  in a sense that a skateboarding community will interact to urban environments whether they are meant to be skated or not.

Power Plant – Exhibition Review

By William Hadwen

28 Februrary – 16 March 2014

The Wellington Botanic Gardens’ light show, ‘Power Plant’ ran as part of the Wellington Arts Festival, in partnership with Contact Energy. It involved a series of largely light and sound-based interactive installations within the gardens themselves. This public event was provided by a collaborative group of five artists (Mark Anderson, Anne Bean, Jony Easterby, Kirsten Reynolds and Ulf Mark Pedersen) who have converted public parks around the world into large immersive spaces through innovative uses of light and sound since 2005 – transforming nature into nocturnal, other-worldly nightscapes.

A sectioned walkway wound through the gardens for visitors to become immersed in this Alice In Wonderland-esque experience, progressively making their way down from the top cable car station to the duck pond, through the central entrance gardens and back up to the cable car. A huge range of installations ensued as we progressed along this pathway guided by illuminated alien plants, insects and gramophones, catching glimpses of what was to come as strange lights wove through the dark unknown of the gardens. The installations appeared to be very meticulously considered whilst giving an illusion of spontaneity and playful response, seeming almost to be naturally interacting with their surroundings. These works employed sound as liberally as they did light, outlining and highlighting select areas of the gardens in a fantastic resonating array of constantly shifting sounds and light forms in different moods, claiming their domains in inventive and unique ways.

Many of the works were cleverly understated and unpredictable – they were very good – with elements of surprise, fantastic but not ‘theme park’. Some however seemed a bit contrived and underwhelming, specifically the floating dresses and lamp shades, which certainly had potential haunting qualities but perhaps not in this setting. The artists’ site-specific response is to the natural environment of this public space – they worked in situ with what was already there, using the dark of night to their advantage. Changing and emphasising the brief encounters of a familiar, extraordinary mindset – a willingness to believe anything in the depths of night-time.

Mysterious, understated, clever, light and playful. Yet a certain dark undertone. The charm of the show was the illusion and ambiguity which allowed for an imagined sense of drama and atmosphere of mysterious happenings as if waking up inside a dream. Haunting, it gets under your skin, you take away a fictitious unravelling within your subconscious.

Wandering Objects by artist Lucy Wardle – Exhibition Review

By William Hadwen

Lucy Wardle’s recent work in the 2015 Wellington Performance Arcade, ‘Wandering Objects’ featured a shipping container with one open end for participants to enter through, while the other end was occupied by a transparent pink wall. This performance felt approachable and welcoming and participation was quiet and contemplative compared to the more intense and confronting performances I have experienced. Inside the container was a rather inviting pile of what I could only describe as elephant trunks, constructed with hundreds of threaded floral rounds, cut from warm-tone woollen blankets.

In regard to presentation, once lying on the woollen trunks – intertwined and content – I noticed lights had been installed in the ceiling of the container, emphasising the pink glow of the transparent wall and dowsing the interior with an artificial pink glow. This saturated illumination gradually diffused toward the opening, which appeared to provide a certain natural green glow from the outside world caused by my eyes’ over compensation in reaction to the overpowering pink setting. While this work was certainly presented as a contemporary interactive performance – it was in the Performance Arcade, after all – it also showed certain formal qualities which I didn’t expect and was in fact pleasantly surprised by. The processes employed involved both physical objects within the space and a study of light and human visual perception, purposefully displacing what one would expect to see and offering a filtered view of reality – we don’t realise what we take for granted because… we take it for granted.

Simple objects with elements of complexity within a rigid, strongly geometric space brought a certain physical minimalism with potentially darker undertones of a more gruesome or bodily narrative, inside the belly of a whale perhaps. Willing participants, consumed into the warmth of a nurturing interior. My favourite aspect of this sculptural installation was the intentional use of light on the ceiling and walls of the container, it was as though it offered two different poles between the artificial pink overload and exaggerated green compensation. The undulating metal surface alternated between bars of pink and green light, each becoming thicker toward their respected end, but meeting harmoniously and in balance at the center of the container’s interior surfaces.

The success of this work was its understated immersiveness.

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