The Arrow (2018)
This exhibition directly acknowledges one of Central Otago’s legendary rivers – the Arrow River. There are also sub-texts - visual dialogues about water, history, politics, inter-personal relationships, the landscape and art. Collectively then The Arrow (as an exhibition) attests that art is a fundamental social document.
The coordinates 37 47S 175 17E name and locate the narrative of Brett Graham’s multi-layered carved target: Sydney Square, Hamilton. There Australian mercenary soldiers fighting on behalf of the New Zealand colonial government during the ‘Maori Wars’ were housed. That land was then confiscated and given to them as service reward. Rukuhia III is a plural symbol: it functions as an underwater scanner, searching for the house of the god of the sea and the original site of carving. It also traverses the politics and personal privacy issues being raised by the unobtrusive surveillance so commonplace everywhere today.
Recently shown at the Honolulu Biennale, Yuki Kihara’s video Maui Descending a Staircase II (After Duchamp) is a mesmeric masterpiece, that merges the history of art and motion photography with issues of identity and racial hierarchy. Nose Width with Vernier Calliper directly confronts nineteenth century racial stereotypes and the Auckland Blues controversy about Samoan rugby players. In Leapingand Siva (Dance) Kihara’s characteristic repetitive fragmentation is beguiling with multiple levels of narrative content revealed.
Susanne Kerr’s The Believers is a parable, where belief is shown as communal and theatrical, united by ribbons of hope which others – seemingly excluded - gaze upon and question. What are they seeing? Kerr’s quite remarkable compositional and drawing skills are again evidenced in the sexually charged The Exchange. In The Temptation she questions religious tenets, whereas Jeffrey Harris co-opts religious symbols and supplicant’s mannerisms as fundamental cues in dialogues that are internal and individual. Together but alone …
Lisa Reihana’s mythic Diva and Pelt – Camarillo encompass gender politics as does Caroline Earley in ceramic vignettes imbued with personality, tenderness and wry humour. Paul Dibble’s outstanding geometric Figure of Ease is a seamless combination of figuration and form.
Recipient of the 2018 Wallace Award, Andy Leleisi’uao has established an utterly distinct visual language which links the past and the present in tales which demonstrate no actual beginning, middle or end but in the process diverse cultures and civilisations are suggested, comics, rock drawings and board games evoked, heaven and hell depicted, human endeavour and foibles explored, with objects morphing from one thing into another. Chris Heaphy’s characteristic silhouette and overlay technique places diverse cultural signifiers and symbols of the past together too with everything shown facing one way. Looking to the past or at the future? In this way, Heaphy establishes significant memory cues that directly elicit the viewer’s participation.
How can ‘apparent’ emptiness be full? Emily Wolfeconclusively demonstrates that the seemingly mundane (a path, a street, a shop front window, a dangling wire) is redolent with information and beauty. If we look, then we can begin to see …Likewise, Simon Morris insists that we must look and experience, before we can get to ‘see’. His works are monochromatic delineated structures, where the elusive subtleties of colour and surface are counter-pointed as the entire visual subject.
Simon Edwards’ atmospheric landscapes of the Southern Alps appear to alter substance and structure as we look. If Simon Edwards’ landscapes are achieving iconic status, then Simon Clark’s No Place Like Home series examines the iconography and symbolism of national identity. Michael Hight’s Paterson Inlet is a surreal story, at once located in Stewart Island but where the questions posed are asked of us all - how are you looking after our landscape?
Neil Dawson (sculptor) and Darryn George (painter) have many surprising elements in common. In Ariki George, like Dawson in Murmuration 25, repeats patterns and forms, alters scale, actively using positive and negative space as a key compositional device. In Reflections – Stairs Dawson links the architecture of a building with a circular stair below which we come to realise (in the reflection) that as the world warms the water is rising. In Crest of the Wave George places the viewer, seemingly, as if in the sky looking down upon the sea which is separating. In that way, the narrative opens out encompassing the story of Exodus and the crossing of the Red Sea.
Sentinel by Ben Pearce continues his development of a unique style, combining apparently precariously stacked abstract forms into an explicit figurative language. There are remarkable sensations and suggestions created, and tensions built: what is it guarding, when will it move? Katherine Smyth’s fruit pots and jars are simply outstanding and very beautiful. Paul Maseyk’s large ceramic pots are exuberant combinations of form and painted surface, again revealing him to be an imposing, multi-talented, singular figure in the resurgent world of New Zealand ceramics.