Saturday, July 20, 2013

Painting in the Third Dimension

Bright orange painted, disposable cup, (the ridged variety) topped with a roughly orange-painted rectangle of card or a box perhaps, on the invitation.  Painters in the Third Dimension out in Manurewa. 

What a drive at rush-hour that was from the city, and yes, I did get lost once. I usually find myself in that state a few more times, driving somewhere new, but in my latter years I seem to be learning a better sense of direction. The dense, laden dark of mid-winter New Zealand too, so much gorgeously rich with darkness, the car-park dimly lit, (not an issue it's fine), then yes, someone was walking into the building. The drama of the evening added a certain extra something, yes perhaps, je ne sais quoi.

darkness including a house with its lights on - this in fact last new years eve 2012-13 out west

An old, beautifully-kept house in the grand manner, Nathan Homestead Arts Centre. So I hauled my arthritic knee up the stairs and decided the massive bannister really could take my calisthenics. (No lift is available, I did ask). It had been a pleasant surprise to see writer Michael Onslow-Osbourne and writer Janet McAlister in the foyer. Michael did offer to assist me, but I decided to go for the stretch, grab and haul manoeuver, being the independent En Zedder that I truly am, I suppose. I'm mentioning this, because in some ways this show is also fiercely independent. 

The first piece of art I registered in this exhibition, (after some delicious bread, cheese, a few olives and a glass of orange juice), made me laugh. A welcome reaction, believe me. Any laughs I can get at the moment are like the most valuable treasure imaginable. Good humour and merriment we could cherish, nurture, encourage and celebrate far more. 

So, I'd walked into the first well-appointed exhibition room at Nathan Homestead, drew to eye level with one of Carolyn Gilbert's photographs, (all single edition, framed archival digital prints), and there it was. Instantly recognisable, a disposable ridged cup, sitting inside a gold box with Van Clef & Arpels upon it in their distinctive, expensive-looking logo script. Bright paint splashed over it, as if colour and human movement easily obliterates these things and becomes far more important.  The truth of that idea and my delight in seeing this fresh, cheeky approach, albeit intelligent and well-considered, made me laugh. Brilliant.  The other prints also have this amusing element to my eye, while offering then something more. Delight is the gateway to understanding them, I found. Everyday, discarded objects transformed.

The whole exhibition offers room after room of things to wonder about and look further into, if you dare. 

The titles really do matter for many of the pieces and also, some of the peculiarities take a person over, after spending time with the art. In Catherine Fookes' room, a few of us enjoyed a lengthy discussion with much banter, laughter and invention for about an hour, for instance. Artist John Radford, actor and writer Genevieve McClean, two others and myself, exclaimed, pontificated, dashed here and there, laughed and transported ourselves so much I wanted to take all the work and people home to entertain me further. If only I had a gallery space attached to the house.

Excited, I determined instead that I could package some of Fookes' pieces up and send them to certain politicians. Peanut Butter and Jelly, (mixed media on canvas) a purple and brown ooze with curling cardboard triangles rather golden, including a daubed plastic frame, (zig-zags)! I would send to our prime minister.  He eats appalling food I've noticed, so surely he could appreciate this piece? (Imagine my innocent-look here). The work alludes to the fact, I believe, that peanut butter and jelly nowadays in some places, is as toxic as drinking poison. That fact could possibly escape him of course, but I just kept imagining filming him opening this gift. What could he say faced in this manner with the ugly truth? Is this finally a way to discover that?

And yes, peanut butter packed with GMO, salt and corn syrup, along with jelly jam also packed with corn syrup and possibly also GMO on white bread which is almost the same as eating cardboard, but possibly worse, is toxic. Some peanut butter and jelly jam made in other countries is toxic too, because their food standards are not as high as ours. It is easy to make your own peanut butter and jam, or buy organic. We also need to buy local food, in NZ.

I decided the Fookes' work that looks like pretty murder needs to go to that Bennett woman, in office dealing out de ath and destruction to families near you. It's called, Back to Front and Inside Out, (mixed media). The Rena (Bay of Plenty), (mixed media/oil on canvas) I'd naturally send to the Tauranga City Council. The awful crushed polystyrene, (it releases deadly gasses when broken) and disgusting brown paint, (a wrong-tint that would've been otherwise thrown away, given to Fookes by the artist Andy Leleisi'uao), with a kiddy-style wavy dirty blue sea beneath made me feel ill, yes, but the actual event was truly a horror. 

We need to remember these are diabolical days and stand against such behaviour. It was deregulating ports and the rush to get ever more money which in part caused that terrible event, the Rena wreck and oil spill. 

Standing against wrong-doing is not enough however, we must always also rejoice in life and reach out to each other in kindness, with love and generosity, wherever possible. This exhibition does both of those things, it stands against injustice, pretense, pat answers, wrong-doing and superficiality. Painters in the Third Dimension also encourages discussion, risk-taking in the best possible ways, outrage and therefore questioning, while creating a sense of fun and light-heartedness somehow too.

I may visit the exhibition again to see where I'd send the rest of Fookes' wild works. They all inspired me to think of focussed, decent errant behaviour, (yes, quite possible) as a good way to find solutions, to fix up the dire trouble we are in. The work is so apparently crazy, exciting and puzzling and yet also, deliberate, careful and purposefully hung. I discovered a sense of wanting to make more of the pieces, they inspired me to find a place for them in my life or actions, and I can see that placement in a certain manner, even in my imaginary world, could radically change the course of history, save us from almost complete disaster. Our thoughts and dreams and plans do affect our behaviour. We then change our actions and the world changes, too.

Creativity is truly what we all need now, to survive, more than ever before. The uncertain future needs creative thinkers and creative work. Support artists and others of this ilk, nurture your own creativity too.

I did suggest the Fookes' pieces needed the titles on the works themselves, and 3-D painted deliberately awful, awkward or just simple objects which accompany the wall paintings needed to be closer to whichever piece they relate to. I decided. I'd also be pleased to see the stories behind each work displayed in writing, with the exhibition. (Great stories, I heard many of them). BUT without those changes the work is still startling and effective. My suggestions simply show how Fookes demands we try to make sense of what she's done, even if the art seems as peculiar as strange and eccentric can safely get, rather. 

Later some things made more sense. The work stayed with me in mind. The fact, for instance, that there are pieces in this exhibition which go together is not always clear, but then this is also true in life, isn't it? If people are a 'couple' for instance, does it have to be obvious they 'match'? Then too, if these works are a puzzle, and drive someone to find out more, to read the catalogue, well then, that person has stepped out of their usual easy reference frame, has had to make an effort to understand. The exercise itself in doing this is another dimension co-incidentally, is the third and fourth dimension, and may relate to many others.
I also loved the Emma Smith room of black and white objects, especially the burnt little mannikin on the wall with the big head and red eyes, I just wanted to own that so much I had to turn away. The piece is made from, as the artist said, "...a charred remnant from the vast fire that scorched the site across the road from my friend's house." A compelling object, awful and beautiful at the same time. It reminds me of myself and so many people whom I know and care for, burnt so many times by disasters but still fierce with love, with energy and a will to live. Her whole selection in this group exhibition is called, Vesuvius and You Part 2 (The Restructure). My typing cannot do the name justice, by the way, type used for the exhibition catalogue is far lovelier.  

Other more smooth and finished, Smith pieces are placed on the floor. Each is formed from clay dug up from the nearest volcano to where she lives. A diagram in the room shows what individual works are named, as if in a museum and the diagram on the wall is part of that display. 

Each piece could be an artifact from some kind of melted and then reformed civilisation, in their simplicity then becoming whatever the viewer wishes them to be. After a disaster, as the title of Smith's work overall suggests, we do make new meanings for things we once knew. We do reform and regroup. Things after a shock may appear to be just black and white. I imagine the two-way colour range mainly, (with only the red eyes of the burnt mannikin another colour if I recall correctly), also may refer to chess games and so on. Smith also points out we may see suggestions of many other shapes in her sculptures, "...missiles, menhirs, ice bergs, broken boats...."

Kenneth Merrick showed the most varied collection, "...a broad range of source material." Two are bottles repainted and re-contextualised. One startling bottle has pinkish paint over it, almost like little caterpillars, and it stands in a window. I'd love to own Resist, (acrylic on glass) and use it for my more volatile performances. The bottle is presented a little like a Molotov cocktail with a rag spouting out the neck, (these are dangerous objects used as missiles by people usually having few resources for retaliation), but it is also painted in a jewel-like way, as if it is an Italian perfume bottle made large, or some kind of religious symbol. The many ways to read the title in reference to the piece, really impressed me. Is Merrick saying to resist throwing such a missile, full stop? Or is he saying resistance may be a last resort, but when it is done, then we'd better make sure it is with the idea that resistance is a valuable action, and does waste our treasures in some ways?  Also, the actual painting is a kind of resist, it is resisting the light getting into the bottle. It may also be used as a resist to etch the bottle. Then there are more ways to read it, people could have fun with the word for hours. 

Another Merrick is a large red dye painting on loose fabric, but 'man on a horse' hardly does it justice as a description. People would be best to see this large, powerful piece, in fact. Then, a molten lump of blackness on a perspex stand is NFS, (Not For Sale) and it's named, Some Shit from Space, which of course it is in various ways in fact, while it may also be part of a comet or somesuch. In the centre of the room this lump, black and shiny, pock-marked, radiates a powerful atmosphere simply with its mystery and the canny way it's displayed.

This is me sometimes, so much to care for here and now, but best get on - ha - Pony Book 1982
I could say far more but this is only my blog, not writing I get paid for, so practically I need to wind this up. 

It was such an intriguing, intelligent, relaxed evening, the opening night, that's all. I do know two of the artists somewhat, Catherine Fookes curated my show at Cosset, and Kenneth Merrick did the window paintings there for promotions, but I truly did enjoy seeing their work too. It was the most fun I've had looking at art, since I saw the AKL Home exhibtion at the Auckland City Art Gallery with poet Serie Barford, and o yes we also saw poet and academic Robert Sullivan there. It was after Courtenay Sina Meredith's first poetry book launch, what a day that was.... Anyway, what a delight and a joy, so in-your-face and daring too. Good on them all, painters in the third, fourth and other dimensions, bless us artists every one and the rest.

I believe the exhibition does reference various other artists. My practise also uses found objects and mixed media, so I take a keen interest in others who use this medium. I could see Judy Darragh's influence. Also, some Futurist echoes and a definite likeness and progression from much work with found objects/mixed media in the last thirty years, globally.

The Futurists for your information said that we would in the future, (now), find being called crazy a compliment, and we would also improve as human beings, on and on. Some Futurists also loathed anything old, and really, what could be newer than the fresh rubbish we create and art made from it?

That these four local global artists Merrick, Fookes, Gilbert and Smith, (we're countless of us on the world stage now), went to this much trouble. They're bringing us out of the twisted, difficult and punishing age of money-love, which we are surely many struggling with, (if we have a mind, body and soul or heart), to a place where we could delight in simple human behaviour that pleases us in benign and fanciful ways, along with encouraging complex thinking patterns to develop our minds.  This has to be applauded. I'm effusive with good reason. 

The entire exhibition, Painters in the Third Dimension offers this chance, these openings, the cracks letting in light, (to paraphrase Leonard Cohen) and genuine interaction with vital materials. Some works display far more finesse and polish than others, a few are so idiosyncratically put together you may be tempted to ignore them. Don't. 

Overall, each artist provides much to wonder at, marvel over and consider, allowing people to make up their own minds, and to yes, be disgusted, repelled and annoyed if we so wish. Good. Freedom does still exist.

Four rooms, four artists, some have presented painted or coloured 3-D objects, others have flattish wall pieces too. This art is none of it particularly predictable, nor exactly understandable, at first glance.  It's for a long time and a good time, to rewrite a crass old saying into something far more friendly, (yes with sensual overtones, this work is human, it holds clues to happiness, takes us to good places). Take yourself out there to Manurewa, do. The location was chosen because it is out-of-the way.  The journey itself is a preparation and a change.

Painting is of course arguably in more than three dimensions anyway, paint builds up a surface, then channels and swirls exist within the paint, it's not flat. Also, a record of time passing exists in brush-strokes and layers, a pattern from the hours, days, weeks or more that any painting took to be created. Time's progress or the concept of time being spent is also evident in this medium. Usually, painting is considered two-dimensional, if we're prosaic, but then there are also other realities. Thoughts and feelings upon seeing a piece of art are another dimension, too. We may be offered more than one reality possible at any given time. 

People do reality-shift in any case, ordinarily, when we consider people each have their own existence, we could say. We all have a different point of view. A group show amply illustrates this.

Quantum physics theory exists re that there may be infinite alternative realities to this moment. Each decision we make for instance, takes us into one of those infinite possible futures to a present time, which then could go almost anywhere. We do not have a linear path ahead, but an infinite variety of choices to make of the future. Probabilities and possibilities are our indicators of what's likely, we may also then change those. This is the kind of arena this exhibition took me to, inside myself, into my mind and my feelings, (which are always linked even if we hide the fact).

In this uncertain world now unfolding like various versions of tablecloth, and forming like clay vessels upon a potter's wheel and emerging like conversations between equals or not, (you see how confusing life may appear)? yes, here now in 2013, art needs to serve us with indicating peculiarities and mystery, more possibilities than the obvious, we could say. Art also needs to be obviously human, and encouraging creative thinking, while still maintaining subtlty, depth and more than is obvious straight-away. Art must NOT be wasteful. In my opinion, this exhibition at Nathan Homestead, Manurewa, Tamaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand, covers all that territory and more, with real pizazz, skill and courage. 

The show was dedicated to the memory of Ian Scott.

I wonder what you will think of it? Do let me know. 

Comments are welcome here.  Thanks for reading my blog, well over 8,200 hits so far and growing daily. Great to be in touch with the global community, ever-changing and growing, adapting, reaching for better days.   info there re Kenneth Merrick
Catherine Fookes info is there

Emma Smith info is here

Carolyn Gilbert info here

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