Art Seen: June 3

BY JAMES DINGAN


Electric Hum, by Eliza Glyn
Electric Hum, by Eliza Glyn
"Low Chroma", Eliza Glyn

(Olga Gallery)

The title of "Low Chroma", Eliza Glyn’s exhibition at Olga, refers to the severely muted palette used in the works. Created from multiple thin layers of earthy-toned oils on board, the images seem to shift in and out of the bare wood’s colour and texture. The chroma (colour saturation) is reduced to a bare minimum, and the simple geometric forms of the work seem to float as if islands adrift on a misty sea.

This analogy is telling, in that the forms have been reduced to bare essentials from the world of landscape painting. The artist’s intention is to use natural representations, but to pare them of their intrinsic qualities, thus rendering them as simplified backdrops, reminiscent of the blocky forms of early video games.

The shapes have become simple geometric abstracts, and composition has taken over from naturalistic identity as a main source of the paintings’ interest. The resulting works lie pleasingly along an axis between Simon Kaan’s tranquil seascapes and Colin McCahon’s bold hillsides.

In many of the works, the elements retain much of their landscape origins, and it is these works which seem to hold most interest, as the viewer is torn between the two extremes of representation and abstraction. Coupled with the minimal colours, the images become thought experiments for painter and viewer alike.

Radiata, by Miranda Bellamy and Amanda Fauteux
Radiata, by Miranda Bellamy and Amanda Fauteux
"Radiata", Miranda Bellamy and Amanda Fauteux

(Blue Oyster Art Project Space)

A first glance at Miranda Bellamy and Amanda Fauteux’s exhibition "Radiata" suggests exactly what the title says - a pine trunk, cut and milled, lying centre stage in the Blue Oyster Art Project Space.

The timber, however, tells a deeper story, one the artists impart through the sheer chutzpah of presenting it so prosaically. The apparent prosaicism is at the heart of the matter; we use timber all the time without a thought of its living origin and the work involved in turning organic flora into a commodity.

By presenting a tree halfway through the milling process, we are confronted with our use and overuse of the natural world. The encounter is made more poignant by the trunk’s presence upon a wooden floor, which would otherwise likely go unnoticed.

Even more poignantly, this is a pinus radiata - an exotic tree which because of its usefulness has been allowed to colonise and replace native forests. Not only do we usurp the timber, but the tree is itself usurping the natural landscape.

As if to reinforce the life that is within a tree, the art space’s second room is filled with sound, recorded via sensors placed on living wood within the urban environment. In these unearthly tones we hear the timber calling out in ghostly song to us.

Purehuroa Kahurangi, by Robert Jahnke
Purehuroa Kahurangi, by Robert Jahnke
"Mata Puare — The Awakening", Robert Jahnke

(Milford Galleries Dunedin)

Robert Jahnke's large-scale works question post-colonial Maori identity. Working with mirrored light boxes and neon tubing and with lacquered steel, his works are thought-provoking and embedded deeply within the contexts of traditional Maori art and New Zealand art, in general.

In many of Jahnke’s works, light is doubled into mirrored infinity. The central form of these pieces is the saltire cross that is central to the Maori art of tukutuku and which also has multiple colonial resonances from the Christian cross through the scrawled mark of the illiterate "savage" to the symbol of emancipated participation, the vote. The titles of the works are similarly multifaceted.

A simple reading of Purehuroa Kahurangi and Purehuroa Ma might indicate "Blue infinity" and "White infinity", but "Infinite blessings" and "Infinite directions" are also viable interpretations.

Mata Puare takes these ideas to a logical extreme. This kinetic work uses diagonals and crosses to form all iterations of tukutuku panelling, in doing so suggesting that the infinite crosses previously seen can together create the entire world of te ao Maori.

The lacquered works echo Colin McCahon’s famous I Am. Simultaneously, they question and announce some of the infinite possible statuses which te tangata whenua can and are claiming in this new, more socially aware Aotearoa New Zealand.

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