The Unmissables: Three Exhibitions to See in July
A monthly round-up of artworks in Tāmaki Makaurau that we keep returning to.
Imagine if every exhibition had work by four artists from the same family! Well, HĀTEPE at Mokopōpaki does.
Painting, photography and handcrafted objects all feature in this month’s Unmissables. Once again, our review team of art critics Lucinda Bennett, Lana Lopesi and Francis McWhannell has searched the city to find the best art on show this month in the dealer galleries of Tāmaki Makaurau.
Whenever I visit an exhibition I’m going to write about, I always take plenty of pictures in case I need to relive painted moments after the fact. My camera reel is full of poorly framed close-ups of single strokes and canvas edges. Scrolling through the images I took at Hustle, it looks like they were taken at a group show – so different are the individual marks and textures within the paintings. In one, a wide, stylised stroke of barely-there black paint dragged dry across un-primed canvas, recalling the calm precision of a Lee Ufan painting. In the next, a meandering, lipstick-red line that finishes abruptly before continuing in spray-paint, almost as though one tool ran out of juice so the painter simply picked up a new one. Another close-up reveals a vicious black mark almost gouged into a smooth white surface, ragged-edged like a wound. After this, a delicate pale texture, grey paint rubbed away from the canvas, reminds me of an old house in the process of being sanded back, vestiges of the last paint colour still clinging to the wood so the façade appears soft and marbled.
I could go on to describe mould-like blooms and neon pink blushes, colours leaching through behind the canvas to create a soft haze. I could also recount the time, a year or so ago, when I visited Tira Walsh (Aotearoa, 1979), in her Mount Albert studio and observed how she worked with her paintings laid flat, building them up intuitively using a variety of self-made tools (a trademark of her work is the rambling, round-edged lines that could have been made with a router). However, what I want most to relay is the ambition and audacity of this latest exhibition, where so many styles are represented across the 15 large works on display and yet, somehow, the group remains unified. These paintings refer to one another, the group as a whole providing a context for each individual work to be read within. But Walsh’s is not an insular practice by any means. These are paintings that also refer to the world, recording and experimenting with textures that exist across physical and digital space, pulling these feelings onto the canvas with absolute fearlessness. – LB
12 July – 10 August 2019
Auckland-based Yvonne Todd (1973) is well known for her staged photography, which plays on kitsch studio aesthetics, out-of date-fashion and a certain greasy quality. Todd won the inaugural Walters Prize with a series of photographs made during her final year of study. The significance of Todd’s work became apparent in her 2014–15 survey show, Creamy Psychology at City Gallery Wellington curated by Robert Leonard, with Claire Regnault – the first time that the gallery had ever given so much space to one artist.
The Crisis (5) (1999) apears in Todd’s current exhibition Mushroomia at Ivan Anthony. The photograph shows seven cigarette butts sitting on a reflective surface, un-tapped ash piled on top. Made over ten years ago now, there is something alarmingly current about the work as the legislation around smoking continues to become tighter and the act itself ever more socially unacceptable. The black and blue marbled matting framing the cigarettes keeps the image in its late nineties era with a nostalgic charm. Drawing on Todd’s characteristic humour, The Crisis makes smoking – even with all of its risks to health – almost alluring. – LL
3–27 July 2019
By now, I ought to know better than to expect the expected at Mokopōpaki. Yet, reading that the title of the group show HĀTEPE could be translated as ‘algorithm’, my mind went straight to gloomy stereotypes of the internet, to the detection and exacerbation of insidious patterns of human behaviour. Such notions are not absent from the exhibition, but it is altogether brighter in tone, more immediately relating to a second translation: ‘to proceed in an orderly manner’. Orderly processes are everywhere, HĀTEPE seems to say – just as present in tāniko and the use of the starry sky to orient us in space and time as in the tangible-unknowable computer systems that support a world of Instagram and Twitter.
Nourishing networks thread the show. Spiral collective associates Marian Evans and Tiffany Thornley reconnect (as they did last year in This Joyous, Chaotic Place). A scroll of calligraphic visages by Julian Hooper, an elegant assemblage by Krystina Kaza, and witty paper-works by Cale Kaza and Finley Lazurek all stem from one nuclear family. My favourite pieces, a pair of felt and mohair dolls named Te Kōkako and Te Kererū Māui (both 2018), also embody whānau ties. The artist, Te Maari, is the Birmingham-based cousin of Jacob Tere, Keeper of the House at Mokopōpaki. Hovering before the wall, with embroidered moko and leaves (or perhaps feathers) sprouting on their faces, the figures are comforting and strange, within caressing distance and far removed from the problems of the exhaust-riddled street outside. They are, I fancy, like ‘worry dolls’, ready to hear our pains and to help us go on. – FM
Organised by Roman Mitch
Marian Evans, Dianne Rereina Potaka-Wade, Penelope Sue, Ursula Christel, p.mule, Ronan Lee, Krystina Kaza, Julian Hooper, Cale Kaza, Finley Lazurek, Patrick Lundberg, Te Maari, Yonel Watene, Marcel Tautahi, Ngaroma Natalia, Tiffany Thornley, Richard Shortland Cooper
4 July – 17 August 2019
Feature image, top of page:
Te Maari, Te Kōkako and Te Kererū Māui, 2018.
The Unmissables is presented in a partnership with the New Zealand Contemporary Art Trust, which covers the cost of paying our writers. We retain all editorial control.