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(The Artist's Room)
Tyler Kennedy Stent has continued a series of collaborations, on this occasion with master printmaker Al Bell. The results of the collaboration are currently on display at The Artist's Room.
Working under the joint pseudonym of Piwakawaka, Stent and Bell have produced a series of fine mixed-media works in which the natural world comes to the fore, albeit occasionally with the presence of children. In each work, the symbiosis between the figures on display (and the creative symbiosis between the two artists) suggests a world of co-operation between people and animals, animals and animals, and people and people.
Each piece has as its central figure a watercolour image by Stent, using his characteristic impasto style, which defies the delicacy usually associated with the medium. The paint is applied boldly, creating a gouache-like texture. This solidity beautifully complements Bell's hand-embossing of the paper used, and the central image is surrounded by one or more deftly etched images of birds or — memorably — eels. The overall impression is of miniature moulded walls upon which the figures roam free — a sensation enhanced by the paintings by Stent which have for some time adorned the entrance to the gallery.
"Pretty Tools and Silly Weapons", Christine Hellyar
Christine Hellyar's "Pretty Tools and Silly Weapons", while living up to its title, also examines concepts relating to museum curatorship and the ownership of intellectual and cultural art concepts.
The exhibition is divided into several groups of objects which, in true prehistoric style, are tools created and fashioned from the surrounding natural world. The Proud Padders are artistic tools in the form of neolithic hammers, created from river stones, wood, and leather. Whisk/Whips are produced from plaited coir with copper, or with lead-moulded baby octopuses. The Hopeless Hooks are bronzes cast from punga and poplar branches seated on beds of silk tassels.
The concept and its actualisation are both filled with a wry humour, yet there is also a lot of joy to be had from the appearance of the objects, as well as some pointed observations on the collection of artefacts.
Two of the series are of particular note in this regard. In Perky Pens, Hellyar reflects on the life of Elizabeth Cook, wife of explorer James Cook, via a series of bundled quills. The Claims works, with their myriad small attached painted pieces, are a miniature galleries and also an examination of the concepts of intellectual property, and of success being dubiously measured by volume of output.
"The Stories Young Men Keep", Anton Lambaart
"The Stories Young Men Keep" is a fascinating, thought-provoking exhibition by Anton Lambaart, working in collaboration with poet Jenny Longstaff. The portraits, predominantly of young men, are beautifully presented yet deliberately left enigmatic, as if the subject is hiding as much as is being revealed.
Lambaart has deliberately created a space for contemplation and questions: lights are dimmed, and there is space to breathe between the paintings, each of which is accompanied by a short biography of the subject and a poem by Longstaff. Viewers almost feel a compulsion to reach into the works to find out some of the inner thoughts of the subjects. We are drawn to feel a kinship with these strangers, an understanding of the circumstances of their lives. Yet the enigmas remain — the poems deliberately add an unexplained element to each work, and the artist's deliberate use of styles directly influenced by or referencing classic artworks adds yet another layer to the puzzle.
This is a deliberate act on the part of the artist, who has been inspired by the tragedy of New Zealand's high suicide rate for young men. The passive faces stare from the canvas, asking us to connect, to care, yet each conceals its own hidden story, a tale the viewer struggles to comprehend.