Art Seen: November 23

In this week's Art Seen, James Dignan looks at exhibitions from Hamish Horsley, Glen Hayward, and Aiko Robinson.


The Wave, by Hamish Horsley
The Wave, by Hamish Horsley
''Earth Rising'', Hamish Horsley (Fe29 Gallery)

New Zealand sculptor, photographer, and painter Hamish Horsley is soon to move to Dunedin, and has announced his presence with an exhibition at Fe29.

Horsley is best known for his sculptures, including numerous large works on public display around the world, among them London's Tibetan Peace Garden. In the current exhibition, Horsley's interest in Tibet and in its culture and spiritual life is on show, most notably in the Wild Earth series of photographs of the land, each of which captures something of its vast emptiness.

Alongside sit a number of Horsley's swirling, hypnotic paintings, mainly in gouache. These semi-abstract pieces are heavily indebted to the rhythms and forms of nature. The paintings couple together a wide range of influences (one can see everything from French impressionism to Aboriginal dot art in the works), though the colours and forms of the land and sea dominate. This is most notable in a series of wave forms, one of which gives a titular nod to another influence, Japanese artist Hokusai.

Last, but far from least, are his sculptures. Created from English Portland and Purbeck limestone, these undulating abstract forms provide a sensual centrepiece to the display. The textured surfaces and smooth patterned rock call out to be touched and have a beautifully strong yet calm presence.


Dendrochronology, by Glen Hayward.
Dendrochronology, by Glen Hayward.
''Dendrochronology'', Glen Hayward (Dunedin Public Art Gallery)

Glen Hayward has created an impressive piece of conceptual and sculptural art, currently on display at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.

Hayward's sculpture initially seems disarmingly simple. As a child, the artist used to play in the ruins of an old Toyota. In ''Dendrochronology'', the artist painstakingly recreates the wreck from wood. The interior is meticulously replicated, whereas the exterior of the work is deliberately left rough, clearly constructed from ply panels, and often with very little attempt to produce an accurate facsimile.

In viewing the work, we become the artist as a young child - we can imagine the lost summers of youth and a young boy creating a playhouse in the wreck.

Intriguingly, the car is a vanitas work. Vanitas paintings were designed to indicate the ephemerality of wealth and remind the viewer of inevitable death. Symbols of opulence and mortality were shown alongside each other: short-lived creatures, candles, wine, musical instruments, and the ubiquitous skull. Here, we are presented with a modern take on the theme. Strewn about the car's interior are direct analogies of these symbols: snail shells, cigarette butts, bottle caps and a cassette tape, along with a sheep's skull. As such, what at first seems a simple replica of a car takes on a much more profound depth.


A Shuttlecock Caught in a Tree (detail), by Aiko Robinson
A Shuttlecock Caught in a Tree (detail), by Aiko Robinson
''Intimate Whispers Hidden in the Shadows of the Trees'', Aiko Robinson (Milford Gallery)

Seen through the eyes of Western viewers, Japanese erotic art can often be surprising and unnerving (no doubt, something similar applies for Japanese viewers of Western erotica).

In shunga art, Japan has a long tradition of works which might shock the prudish, but the images are not low art. They are of the finest quality, and can proudly sit alongside their less titillating cousin, ukiyo-e art.

Aiko Robinson has created a series of works in traditional shunga style, but they are works in which the sexuality has been deliberately abstracted. This the artist has achieved by removing any suggestion of the protagonists' faces from the images.

The removal of this vital feature has made for erotic art where the eroticism is not the first thing noticed by the viewer. Instead, we initially notice the beautiful, almost obsessive patterning in the creation of the works, and it is only after a few seconds that the reality of the scenes becomes apparent.

Robinson's images are created in traditional materials and styles, and using time-honoured methods - woodblock and ink drawing. As such, her images sit well within the history of shunga art. The images are not without humour, and this is reinforced by the deliberate, often crude, punning in the titles of the works.

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