In this week's Art Seen, Robyn Maree Pickens looks at exhibitions from Jason Greig, Laurel Project Space, and Fiona Pardington.
"Carbon-dated Faith", Jason Greig (Brett McDowell)
Jason Greig is renowned for his idiosyncratic synergy of historical influences including Goya, Gothic Art, French Symbolism, and pop cultural manifestations of melancholic bleakness. Greig expresses this particular melding of influences in the mediums of print, charcoal drawings and oil paintings. In terms of subject matter, Greig’s blend of melancholy manifests most characteristically in the form of a lone figure in a voided landscape, such as an arid mountainous region or a subterranean cave. The figure tends to be angular, naked, shrouded or cloaked. While Greig’s works frequently depict tortured figures, the bleakness is knowing and wry rather than grimly unrelenting.
While taking into consideration these traditional readings of Greig’s work, the title of his latest exhibition "Carbon-dated Faith" made me wonder whether or not it might be possible to interpret this body of work through a lens of ecological crisis and faith? Is it possible to carbon-date faith? Or perhaps, to state the question more accurately, is it possible to carbon-date the apparatuses of faith? Carbon dating seemingly makes allusions to the fact that human culture is contributing a layer to the geological record (plastic, particulate matter, nuclear waste). With his focus on landscapes largely devoid of life, Greig could be asking whether we have faith in the systems that are bringing us ever closer to ecological collapse.
"Combine The Package You Can Use And Read It In More Versions", Curated by James Hope (Laurel Project Space)
Threre is a clunky, not quite "right" quality to the title of the exhibition "Combine The Package You Can Use And Read It In More Versions" that accurately captures the themes of opacity and defunctness in relation to technology explored in the work of the seven exhibiting artists: Stella Brennan, Claudia Dunes, Jae Hoon Lee, Raewyn Turner and Brian Harris, Robyn Walton and Carlin Wright. Curated by James Hope, this exhibition assembles together relics of technology, and presents the ways in which, in some instances, they can be repurposed.
One example by Robyn Walton comprises an old, freestanding, cathode ray TV placed on its side and hitched to an antennae. This defunct technology has been repurposed to pick up radio and atmospheric noise, natural phenomena, and Wi-Fi signals depending on where the antennae is placed. The black cords between TV and antennae sprawl and coil elaborately in the centre of the gallery. On one side of the TV is a cross-sensory artwork by Raewyn Turner and Brian Harris designed to emit an earthy perfume when activated by physical proximity to the circuit-like work. The works included in this exhibition span a 20-year period in which technology has undergone significant evolution, particularly the internet, which has transformed from potential utopia to surveillance paranoia. Digital video works by Jae Hoon Lee and Carlin Wright speak to this particular transformation.
"Still life with swan", Fiona Pardington (Olga)
An anonymous Dunedin collector has provided Olga director Justin Spiers with two rare, early black-and-white photographs by one of New Zealand’s leading photographers: Fiona Pardington. Pardington’s photographic series have included social documentary, and still life compositions of taonga including hei tiki, controversial museological taonga, artefacts and extinct birds. Pardington is known for her ability to animate subjects as if from the inside: they glow. Her subjects are generally shot against a pure black background.
The two works at Olga are original darkroom prints that diverge from the subsequent bodies of work that Pardington is generally associated with. They are related to the early social documentary work Pardington did as a student at Elam in Auckland, but fall into a category observed by arts writer and publisher Kriselle Baker in which the subject is directed by the photographer to express a certain psychological state.
In Patrick at Anawhata, artist Patrick Reynolds is photographed lying on sand surrounded by kelp. The diptych captures Patrick in the throes of attenuated ecstasy with his eyes closed and his mouth open, looking like a (still) contemporary, alabaster pieta. Alongside another diptych by Pardington, Spiers has included a photograph of his own titled Enclosure that thematically references bodies and Pardington’s later museological focus. There is also a taxidermied swan.