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In this week's Art Seen, James Dignan looks at exhibitions from Hannah Kidd, Alex Monteith, and Tony de Lautour
‘‘Worship’’, Hannah Kidd (Milford Gallery)
Hannah Kidd is well known for her sculptures, created (often with more than slight tongue-in-cheek) out of that most banal of materials: flattened corrugated iron. The artist has produced reflections on rural life with her sheepdogs, horses, and farmers' wives.
In this exhibition, the artist takes a bold step, and in doing so has raised the status of her art. Kidd has created works which are good and well-crafted, but which also pose questions for their viewers, and leave philosophical thoughts long after they have been observed.
Kidd's latest work explores the concept of modern worship, both religious and secular. Do we worship God or our luxuries, and if we worship both, do we do so in the same way?
Kidd has pinpointed the lure of sugary food as a modern object of veneration, with a series of works dedicated to the archetype of Mr Whippy. Nearby, the juxtaposition of the sacred and profane is presented in a more confrontational way with a Christian cross made of tin doughnuts.
Most startling among Kidd's sculptures is a portrait of Jacinda Ardern, reflecting on her seeming canonisation by the media after her measured response to Christchurch's mosque tragedy. In it, we clearly see the human within this elevated status. Have we created saints to walk among us?
''Ka Paroro o Haumumu - Coastal Flows/Coastal Incursions'', Alex Monteith (Dunedin Public Art Gallery)
Alex Monteith's exhibition at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery is a multifaceted, multimedia piece which examines the role of museum collection and the links between research, art, and taonga.
The exhibition, in reality the work of many individuals brought together under Monteith's aegis as an open museum project, consists of video, artefacts, and several ''performances'', in which researchers simultaneously work on the archiving process and present this process as if it were live theatre.
The exhibition focuses on the excavation of several sites in southern Fiordland, with a four-panel video showing the location, collection process, and formal meetings with local runanga and elders. In the ''performance space'' sit cabinets containing some of the taonga retrieved.
Although gathered some years ago, many of the objects are only now being added to databases. The performer/researchers involved in this task predominantly have some Maori ancestry, with some directly connected to the artefacts' original creators. As such, there is a strong feeling of working alongside their ancestors, whose presence is in the room, encapsulated within the mauri of the taonga.
The visitor is left to consider links that go beyond research, and question the ethic of such objects being stored within a museum setting, not just in the context of Maoritanga, but with relics of peoples of all origins.
''Us v Them'', Tony de Lautour (Dunedin Public Art Gallery)
''Us v Them'' is the first major career retrospective of one of New Zealand's edgier and more interesting artists, Tony de Lautour.
The artist's career has taken several distinct directions, and each is given a separate space within the exhibition. We are led through the artist's heavy monochrome landscapes of personal symbology to his early comic- and graffiti-inspired work, with its pugnacious kiwis and human grotesques.
From here, we find his more recent work, in which he abandons the representational and replaces it with abstract geometric forms and block letters. These latter works are largely the result of the artist living through the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, after which he felt that representation of reality was no longer relevant - as if the sudden changing of the real world necessitated a move to the seeming solidity of an internal logic.
The final sections of the exhibition include some of De Lautour's early ''improvements'' of found canvases and some fine examples of his tongue-in-cheek ceramics.
The career overview gives a fascinating look at the changing styles of an artist who is in many ways the missing link between the high art stylings of Bill Hammond and Richard Killeen, and the edgy experimental work of artists such as James Robinson and Philip James Frost.