New Portals

Remo, Roger Morris - at Mygalaxi.
Remo, Roger Morris at Mygalaxi.
Remo, Roger Morris at Mygalaxi.
Remo, Roger Morris at Mygalaxi.
The See Here, Vivien Atkinson.
The See Here, Vivien Atkinson.
The See Here, Vivien Atkinson.
Russian Frost Farmers Kahu Scott.
Suite Gallery Pop Up.
2010 has been marked by a proliferation in Wellington of independent visual arts activity, in all

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By Mark Amery

2010 has been marked by a proliferation in Wellington of independent visual arts activity, in all sorts of different shapes and forms. In part that’s simply because it’s become more visible and viable again.

By Mark Amery

2010 has been marked by a proliferation in Wellington of independent visual arts activity, in all sorts of different shapes and forms. In part that’s simply because it’s become more visible and viable again.

Social media and the web see communities able to network and promote far more easily, without troubling the desks of the news media. Facebook in particular has had a huge uptake in use as a tool across the visual arts community in the last year.

Physically, the property market has also come into play, with artists beginning again to find chinks to operate from within the walls of the inner city. Dealers are also trying out new commercial models. Page Blackie have taken over a vacancy in the waterfront NZX Building, in effect turning a stockroom into a 24-7 window display. Suite Gallery have recently opened a smart satellite site at 108 Oriental Parade. Employing the retail buzzphrase ‘pop-up gallery’ (read: a way to keep your reputation intact if it doesn’t work out) just opened is a show of Bruce Connew works, curated by Melanie Moreau.

Moreau put some strong exhibitions together earlier in the year with the new JJ Morgan and Co gallery. Situated in an old industrial space in Kilbirnie, they describe their operation as a “freeform working space”. After a furious burst of activity early in the year the gallery has gone quiet over winter, but their blog remains lively.

There are all sorts of language battles in describing these new models. Take the term “Micro Gallery” employed by The See Here to describe their ingenious coffin-sized window space at 14 Constable Street, Newtown. Prominently  displaying the web address ‘theseehere.com’, their smart website is far bigger than the space itself.

Vivien Atkinson’s work (up until 19 September) sees her make an elegant distressed intervention into a white venetian blind, tying several blades together to twist through it a hole. Neatly reacting to the site, it plays with tension between window gazing and curtaining, and art’s disruption of design. Atkinson is one of eight artists exhibiting here whose work overlaps the categories of jewellery and art. 

There’s also been a bit of a rash of home-based public exhibitions, the most adventurous surely being Fleur Wickes’ Frida David Lives Here in August. In collaboration with a bevy of artists and musicians Wickes changed an apartment’s furnishing, art and music to create a portrait of an invented tenant (“she is me, and the me I wish I was,” Wickes comments on her website). In the same space at 66b Kingsford Smith Street, Lyall Bay Wickes has opened Kisss, described as “an art studio that looks like an apartment that operates like a shop that has exhibitions that feels like home”. Currently on until 25 September is work by Meta Assink.

Older hands at taking on new spaces are the umbrella artists’ group The Russian Frost Farmers. Describing what they provide as a ‘selective portal’ they are part online community (with a strong international network that saw a recent exhibition of New Zealand artists in Istanbul), studio and since November a gallery. Tucked away from the Dixon Street main drag on Eva Street the gallery has stepped up its activity this winter with solo exhibitions by James Robinson, Campbell Kneale and, until this Friday night, Kahu Scott.

Around the corner on Dixon in a basement, resonant with the gurgle of pipes and sounds of the street above is new gallery space Mygalaxi, run by Arlo Edwards. Monthly art markets (the next 25 and 26 September) have been joined by exhibitions and installations playing with the claustrophobic drama of the space.

A case in point is a current survey show of the work of painter and assemblage artist Roger Morris. Opened to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11, Edwards has curated a large sprawling show that picks out from Morris’s body of work a raw pop-expressionistic response to American military imperialism over more than a decade. Like an inverted bunker war room, where the artist instead stages a public response on behalf of a muted populace (represented by powerful wallpapered prints of monochromatic tool-headed figures), it includes overly-polemic defences of the Twin Towers conspiracy theory. 

The show is ragged and all over the place - as theatrically suffocating as being inside an artist’s scattered brain. Yet it effectively counteracts the insistent violence of television, a strong impassioned antidote to the tidy surfaces of advertising above ground. Dotted with strong work, there’s a great smaller exhibition screaming, from within this bigger underground theatrical presentation, to be let out.

Remo, Roger Morris, Mygalaxi, 39 Dixon Street, until 28 September

Written by

Mark Amery

16 Sep 2010

Mark Amery has worked as an art critic, writer, editor and broadcaster for many years across the arts and media.

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