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In this week's Art Seen, James Dignan looks at exhibitions from Milford Galleries, Gallery On Blueskin, and Jordan Barnes.
‘‘The Gendered Lens’’ (Milford Gallery)
Milford Gallery's ''The Gendered Lens'' is a major, multifaceted exploration of the role and perception of gender in New Zealand photographic art. Curated by Vanessa Jones and Lisa Wilkie, the exhibition brings together works by several of the country's top female photographers, allowing the works to speak for themselves and form dialogues by their presence alongside other complementary or conflicting images.
The works range from the wry photojournalistic images of Ans Westra through to Lisa Reihana and Yuki Kihara's exploration of the changing gender roles in Maori and Pasifika society. Reihana's bold Pelt images, with their defiant nude figure and a surface worked to the point where it seems more painting than photograph, are a particular standout, as is Kihara's variation on a theme by Duchamp.
Anne Noble's examination of women in the still-male bastion of Antarctica provides another highlight with Bitch in Slippers, a humorous but pointed study of the naming of work vehicles on the Big Ice. The antithesis of the military-like conquest of Antarctica is Natalie Robertson's quiet Rock fishing series, in which human presence is in total harmony with the landscape.
The exhibition's most poignant work is Ann Shelton's series of views of empty dormitory rooms - the characterless, institutional walls seem to echo with the ghosts of the women who have sought shelter within.
‘‘Early Works from the Collection of Marshall Seifert’’, Jeffrey Harris (Gallery On Blueskin)
Gallery On Blueskin is presenting a major exhibition of early works by Jeffrey Harris, one of Dunedin's best-loved artists. The works, dating from 1967 to 1982, include the artist's first oil painting and a number of other works discovered within the collection of former gallery owner Marshall Seifert.
The works range from etchings and graphite pieces to impastoed oils, the most intriguing of the latter being a landscape highlighting the artist's debt to the work of Van Gogh - just one of the kaleidoscope of influences which have combined to inform Harris's art.
The show's highlights include the complex composition Your Dreams Will Come True,
a graphite work in which the laws of perspective and gravity have been repealed and the world has become a hypnotic surrealist tapestry. The artist's self-portraits and portraits of then-wife Joanna Paul are also of note.
Images of Paul and Harris can also be found among the figures in the larger group works. Simpler pieces, such as a view of the artist's house and studies of the artist's father and of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas are also charming.
The exhibition is complemented by three works by Joanna Paul, the largest of which, On the Beach at Waitati, is a lovely watercolour accompanied by one of the artist-writer's poems.
‘‘Theories’’, Jordan Barnes (The Artist’s Room)
''Theories'', the first Dunedin exhibition from North Island artist Jordan Barnes, is an eclectic mix of media and subject, the main point of contact between the works being a slightly unsettling, voyeuristic feel to many of the pieces.
This sense of illicit watching is reinforced by the title of one of the larger works, the precisely painted Blue Velvet, with its image redolent of suburban neurosis. The title gives the cue, bringing to mind the undercurrents in
David Lynch's dystopic small town America and the unsettled urban photographs of Gregory Crewdson.
The same air of half-glimpsed faces in forgotten spaces is seen in several of Barnes' works, including the poignant juxtaposition of crumbling stonework and supple young bodies in The Recital, an excellent charcoal piece.
It is also present in the impressive and stylish Manhattan II, in which the effects of garish neon light on dented chrome are brought to vivid life by the artist's brush.
A different, more melancholy, mood is evoked in the quiet Juliet and the Abyss and in the nostalgic near monochrome of Life in Technicolour, its fading black-and-white photograph brought into sharp psychological relief by the presence of a photo developer's colour key across the image's base.