Art seen: March 28

Splash Club (2024), by Emily Hartley-Skudder (installation detail). Featuring paintings by Roger...
Splash Club (2024), by Emily Hartley-Skudder (installation detail). Featuring paintings by Roger Fry (left), Heather Straka (middle) and Elizabeth Kelly (right). Photo: Justin Spiers
"Splash Club", Emily Hartley-Skudder

(Hocken Collections Gallery)

Assuming the role of artist and curator, the 2023 Frances Hodgkins Fellow, Emily Hartley-Skudder, has presented an aesthetically generous exhibition that explores body politics associated with the genres of the Birth of Venus and La Toilette. Known for found object sculpture and painting installations that involve contemporary or historical artists, in "Splash Club", Hartley-Skudder is both whimsical and critically astute.

From Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-69) to Vivian Lynn (1931-2018), historical and contemporary works are placed all together, creating a network of associations for the viewer to discover amid an installation of late 20th century soft pastel and clamshell-themed bathroom decor.

While there are many reference points, the exhibition is punctuated by key works. At one end of the gallery is Judy Darragh’s Birth of Barbie (1992), mirrored by Louisa Afoa’s Blue Clam (2018). Both works use the genre of the Birth of Venus as a vehicle for different generational perspectives on body politics associated with gender, beauty, identity and representation, for example. At the other end of the gallery is a critical reflection on the politics of the gaze, exemplified in the genre of La Toilette. The acutely disruptive Repeat after me…Amanda #3 (2008), by Heather Straka (1972-), is flanked by the backs of two seated and nameless nudes by Roger Fry (1866-1934) and Elizabeth Kelly (1877-1964).

Unrequited Passion Cycle by Giovanni Intra.
Unrequited Passion Cycle by Giovanni Intra.
"Giovanni Intra: Side Effects",

(Dunedin Public Art Gallery)

Curated by Anna McLean, the 2023 Dunedin Public Art Gallery Ihupukutaka Kairaupī Curatorial Intern, this research-based exhibition showcases work by artist, curator and writer Giovanni Intra (1968-2002).

Drawing from a range of collections, including works from the Dunedin Public Art Gallery and research in the Giovanni Intra Archive at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki E H McCormick Research Library, "Giovanni Intra: Side Effects" focuses on work from 1990s that were preoccupied with a critical analogue between Western medical science and religion.

Exemplifying these concerns, Unrequited Passion Cycle (1993) is a series of 14 photographs, facilitated by artist Ann Shelton, modelled on the 14 Stations of the Cross in Christian liturgy and art history. It includes various medical paraphernalia — gloves, a catheter, a blood pack, for example — against saturated sterile-blue backdrops. Each station is a conflation of the social, medical and religious, poetically titled by Intra’s friend Stuart McKenzie.

Spanning colour photography, works on paper, embroidery and digital video from VHS, Intra’s works on show are a distinctly 1990s postmodern aesthetic. Recontextualization and juxtaposition come into play in the video work The Pleasure of Pushing Buttons (1990) for example. ‘So why not try a good dose of the post-structural? Discover the wonders of eating what you think,’ are lines from this work — a grainy combination of textual sequences overlaying messy fleshy imagery.

Taka te kapa (2024), by Alison Beck. Photo: Justin Spiers
Taka te kapa (2024), by Alison Beck. Photo: Justin Spiers
"Te Hauka Te Ahi", Allison Beck and Caitlin Rose Donnelly

(Olga Gallery)

Te hauka te ahi means ‘‘the stranger who stays longer, gets to know the host better’’. For Alison Beck and Caitlin Rose Donnelly this partnered exhibition encapsulates an exploration and celebration of connecting with whānau and whenua.

Beck emphasises the humble background of found or gifted materials, such as newspaper and gaffer tape, that have been repurposed to construct works on paper, canvas, or cotton drill. The work Taka te kapa (2024), meaning ‘‘the penny has dropped’’ or ‘‘I get it now’’, is a deftly rendered geometric work with white interlocking squares and a sense of optical illusion or movement. The abstract and intricate qualities of Beck’s works reflect the artist’s world and personal processes — where making and thinking coincide in a process of kōrero and connection across generations.

Donnelly’s series, titled Buy MY grass (2024), consists of grass and uku pigments in subtle greens and neutral warm tones. Made with elements of whenua upon which the artist lives, Donnelly explores an all-encompassing connectedness to place: in her words, ‘‘past, present, Māori and Pākehā’’. Inscribed across the works is a poem, with a single stanza on each of the six works, conveying the artist’s concerns that cleverly combine medium with meaning.

By Joanna Osborne