Marian Fountain returns to New Zealand to show her new Remote Control series of sculpture in an exhibition at ARTIS Gallery from 17 February to 6 March. In the exhibition the artist explores the importance of the sensory value of touch, using the hand-held remote control as starting point.
'Our relationship to objects of command, and our approach to touching them, is constantly evolving: the low-relief of buttons is disappearing entirely with the arrival of the touch-screen. I wanted to explore this sculptural evolution by proposing organic metaphors and juxtapositions to question how we organise the perception of our world through touch, and indeed by whom and what we are ourselves controlled.’
Though Fountain has resided in Paris for over twenty years, her presence in the New Zealand art scene, exhibiting here every four to five years since 1989, has been an important factor in the development of her artistic practice. Fountain’s pacific origins inform much of her sculpture.
Throughout her career, she has excavated imagery from a range of cultures. Maori iconography has featured prominently in her work, and the classical traditions of sculpture, which stretches back to antiquity, is always present in her process. Encountering the concept of a remote control from an archeological standpoint, the remote possesses the characteristics of a talisman. When held and touched, it has the ability to control other things; it is a vehicle for change and an object of power.
In his article in Art New Zealand, Mark Stocker compares Fountain’s latest series of sculpture to rakau whakapapa, staves that serve as a mnemonic aid to Maori elders reciting long genealogical histories. Like the rakau, sculpture is linked explicitly to the sense of touch, and the tactile nature of the medium adds to the experience of the work. Similarly, we experience a remote control largely through touch. Often we are not looking at the remote when we use it, instead we run our sensitive fingertips across buttons as we look ahead, heightening the experience of the remote as a three dimensional object. Its bumps and buttons, all with a specific purpose, we read like a Maori elder reads the notches of the rakau. The metamorphic quality of the sculptures bridges time, informing us at once of our present and our distant ancestral past, emphasizing that our present is but a notch in time.
Born in New Zealand, Marian Fountain studied at Elam School of Fine Arts 1979 – 1983. She is a member of the New Zealand Medallion Group and has designed and made medals for the 1988 XIV Commonwealth Games, the 2003 America's Cup and for the Friends of Birmingham Museums in 2007.
Fountain has exhibited at the British Museum, The National Gallery of Scotland, the Museo Archeologico of Milan, York Museum Auckland Museum and the French Mint. Her work has been displayed at the New Zealand Embassy in Paris and in London and are held in the British Museum and Smithsonian Museum collections. She exhibits regularly in Europe, and has kept a continuous presence in the New Zealand art world, exhibiting here every few years.
Remote Control runs at ARTIS Gallery, Parnell in Auckland, from 17 February – 6 March 2010