The Unmissables: Three Exhibitions to See in September
A monthly round-up of artworks in Tāmaki Makaurau that we keep returning to.
In the month since our August Unmissables, Tāmaki Makaurau has seen some stand-out solo shows burn hot and bright. Yuk King Tan’s Crisis of the Ordinary and Robbie Handcock’s OnlyFans have closed, but Vita Cochran’s After Paintings and Eemyun Kang’s This Path Is Made by Walking are up for a little while longer and should not be missed. More on both shows below alongside group show Country / Whenua, featuring a work by Warmun artist Mabel Juli that might just steal your heart.
Once again, our 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.
Sydney-based New Zealand maker Vita Cochran’s practice is one of social and material realignment. Stories and objects once relegated to the side or the background, brushed off, considered decoration only; these minoritised narratives are seen, honoured and brought to the fore.
For After Paintings, Cochran has pulled rugs from their painted vaults and laid them at our feet. In the exhibition text, she explains how she is personally drawn to the “supposedly secondary” parts of a painting, and how she views their inclusion as a way for painters to show their appreciation for ‘applied’ arts, and an acknowledgement of their value. Accordingly, each of Cochran’s handmade rag-rug has been given the first name of the Modernist artist whose painting it has come from.
I am reminded of the time I was marking a stack of first year art history essays, when I observed the way students naturally employed the convention of referring to an artist by surname in the case of male artists, and yet somehow slipped into an over-familiarity with the likes of Amrita Sher-Gil and Judy Chicago, referring to them as “Amrita” and “Judy” as though they were close, personal friends. It’s a subtle choice, and not one I am suggesting Cochran was making for this particular reason, but it does quietly decentre the painters, rendering them intimate – and therefore ordinary. However, this first-name intimacy does also work to conjure the warmth of a domestic space where everyone is addressed informally, where Matisse is simply Henri, Stettheimer is Florine, Vuillard is Édouard, Cochran is Vita and your toes are sunk into the soft, deep pile. – LB
Anna Miles Gallery
1–21 September 2019
Mabel Juli (c. 1933) is a highly respected Gija elder who lives and works in Warmun, Western Australia. Born at Five Mile, near Moola Boola Station, Juli settled in Warmun at the end of the station era in East Kimberley. Juli began painting in the 1980s under the encouragement of senior Warmun artists such as Queenie McKenzie (c. 1915–1998). In 2013 Juli was awarded the Kate Challis RAKA Award and was a finalist in the Fleurieu Art Prize for landscape painting. An expert Gija speaker and knowledge-holder, Juli often tells ngarrangkarni or dreaming stories in her paintings. In particular Juli has become synomous with the depiction of the garnkiny, or moon, based on a ngarrangkarni story told to the artist by her parents.
Garnkiny Ngarrangkarni (Moon Dreaming) (2019), currently on display at Tim Melville gallery, brings back the familiar moon and dreaming story in a new painting which has stolen my heart. The Country / Whenua exhibition as a whole brings together 12 Warmun artists and their depictions of country. Garnkiny Ngarrangkarni (Moon Dreaming), made of natural ochre and pigment on canvas, brings a delightful colour palette of soft oranges, greys and whites, expanding the expected colour repertoire for paintings of country. In three words: simple, elegant and confident. – LL
Country / Whenua
Gordon Barney, Teapot Carroll, David Cox, Mabel Juli, Lindsay Malay, Beryline Mung, Marika Mung, Peggy Patrick, Kathy Ramsay, Marika Riley, Bruce Wangundin, Jane Yalunga
20 August – 21 September 2019
This Path Is Made by Walking is the first solo exhibition in Australasia by Milan-based painter Eemyun Kang (Korea, 1981). It’s a profuse presentation, aimed at giving those of us who are largely unfamiliar with Kang’s practice a solid introduction. All the works are stretcher-based and rectangular, and most were produced this year, but they’re otherwise diverse, traversing a wide range of media, scales and temperaments. Individual paintings are similarly varied, pulsing with different colours and gestures.
Yet there’s a unifying confidence. During my visit, a fellow viewer used the word ‘authority’, and it’s apt. Nothing about the paintings is casual or tentative. There’s an unmistakeable sense of experimentation; as the show title (adapted from a poem by Antonio Machado) suggests, the artist discovers by doing. But her process is deliberate, not haphazard, and grounded in a deep understanding of her materials. Kang is fully in possession of that inexpressible ‘affinity’ that takes a painter from competent to consummate, and from interesting to intriguing.
History nerd that I am, I keep trying to draw connections between Kang and other makers. A cluster of fluttering brushstrokes in one work puts me in mind of Gino Severini, a voluptuous petal-form in another – Georgia O’Keeffe. I’m not surprised to learn that Kang has studied Wassily Kandinsky’s writings and paintings both. Yet such associations melt away just as quickly as the real-world leaves and caves and atmospheric hazes that ghost Kang’s beguiling canvases. The point is not to arrive any particular conclusion but to luxuriate in the trip down the painted path. – FM
This Path Is Made by Walking
Trish Clark Gallery
13 September – 26 October 2019
Feature image, top of page:
Eemyun Kang, Passagio, 2019. Photo courtesy Trish Clark Gallery.
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.