Art Seen: March 08

In this week's Art Seen, Robyn Maree Pickens looks at exhibitions from Philip Madill, Martin Thompson, and Campbell Patterson.

 

Shelf Life (2018), by Philip Madill, Eskdale Gallery.
Shelf Life (2018), by Philip Madill, Eskdale Gallery.
''Unreal Estate'' Philip Madill (Eskdale Gallery)

For his third solo exhibition at Eskdale Gallery, Dunedin-based artist Philip Madill presents an engaging suite of drawings: eight graphite on paper works and two monotone pastel works on paper.

The majority of these works present a central subject occupied in a pleasingly obscure activity that involves measurement in some form or another. In Shelf Life, for example, a male subject places both hands on a long ruler that extends from his sternum.

A piece of string encircles the man's head and is tied to the end of the long ruler. As far as I am aware this is not a functional mode of measuring phenomena. Each drawing pivots on this tension between a recognisable subject, apparatus or scene and an uncanny application that unsettles a recognisable or commonplace activity.

Aside from a relationship to measurement, each work (excepting perhaps Beyond the Fall) invokes a 1950s aesthetic in terms of fashion, hairstyle and technology. Madill draws on elements from 1950s images, but puts his own spin on them.

In the monotone blue pastel work Dear Leader, for example, a figure stacks as many bodies as he can into a phone booth while passers-by look on. Despite the potentially loaded connotations of stacked bodies, Madill orients this work, and indeed the entire exhibition, towards the playfully absurd.

 

Untitled (2017), by Martin Thompson, Brett McDowell Gallery
Untitled (2017), by Martin Thompson, Brett McDowell Gallery
''Martin Thompson'', Martin Thompson (Brett McDowell)

In keeping with tradition, Brett McDowell Gallery opens the year with an exhibition of new work by Dunedin-based artist Martin Thompson. Often Thompson works predominately in one colour for a period of time and this exhibition is no exception: this is the ''red'' exhibition, with seven of the nine works executed in red ink.

Thompson, for those not familiar with his work, creates intricate and complex geometric galaxies using ink pens and graph paper. That is, Thompson himself laboriously applies ink to 1mm squares to build dazzling galaxies: the artist and the computer have not encountered one another. As with most art the viewer is rewarded by experiencing the work in person and, in the case of Thompson whose work resembles an 8-big aesthetic of early computers, this is definitely true.

Each work is a diptych with a ''positive'' and ''negative'' side. Certain smaller diptychs appear to function as a type of blueprint for larger iterations. Comparing smaller iterations alongside larger ones there is evidence to suggest that the smaller works have been handled with greater frequency.

Only one small work in this year's exhibition is constructed as a perfectly symmetrical central composition. The other works tend towards an asymmetrical centrifugal composition with increasingly elaborate geometric forms repeated in mathematically complex patterns. Not for the first time, New York is calling.

 

toot floor (2017-2018), by Campbell Patterson, Hocken.
toot floor (2017-2018), by Campbell Patterson, Hocken.
''toot floor'', Campbell Patterson (Hocken)

Campbell Patterson ''toot floor'' at the Hocken is an early standout exhibition of 2018. As the 2017 Frances Hodgkins Fellow, Patterson has examined time (it is a 12-month residency) and everyday materials and situations.

From these quotidian experiences and interactions, Patterson has created work in a range of mediums (drawings, lino-cut prints, video, artist book, sound work, paintings) that nevertheless become formalist abstraction. To take one example, the asymmetrical grid patterns evident in a suite of nine black and white lino-cut prints are taken from Patterson's photographs of fruit and vegetable packaging.

In the central gallery space, Patterson presents a digital video work comprised of more than 60 recordings of bathroom tiles and corners edited into a rapid cut assemblage of geometric shapes and intersections. The black painted walls accentuate the predominately white bathroom interiors.

Patterson's meticulous black-and-white pencil drawings of time (captured as circles arranged in a grid) in the right-hand gallery space continue the black/white schema. This, however, is tempered by a series of paintings displayed on the gallery floor.

As with the drawings, these paintings on rectangular carpet mats function as accumulations of time shaped into formalist abstraction. Over the course of the year Patterson added oil, gesso, stones, beetroot and other materials. The artist also ate a lot of Snickers bars.

 

-By Robyn Maree Pickens

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