The Unmissables: Three Exhibitions to See in June
A monthly round-up of artworks in Tāmaki Makaurau that we keep returning to.
An exciting new art space opened this month in Ōtāhuhu: Vunilagi Vou, a gallery with contemporary Pacific art and audiences at its core, will show a new exhibition each month, sell artworks and objects and provide a communal space for creatives to come together. Gallery Director Ema Tavola (Fiji, Pākehā) says there will be a particular focus on local artists from the wider Ōtāhuhu and Māngere area and women artists. We’re thrilled about this addition to the arts landscape of Tāmaki Makaurau. More on the gallery’s debut show below.
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.
Auckland-based Salome Tanuvasa (1987) has always had a dynamic and diverse practice. Well known for her documentary-style moving image works such as Expensive Moments (2012), Tanuvasa’s more recent works have been focused on an expansive and playful drawing practice. Tanuvasa’s drawings are in one way a reference to communication systems and languages, investigating how meaning can be formed and shared. And on the other hand, they’re also a comment on time. Each mark of her drawings reveals the quick pace of both the mark itself as well of making works within a busy lifestyle.
These same concerns with language and time are the focus of Tanuvasa’s latest exhibition, Mirrored Systems at Tim Melville. Four works all of the same scale and all named Untitled greet you as you enter the gallery space. A more focused exploration of the curve form than previously seen, these works encompass a new confidence through their blob-like shapes and gradient use of colour. Tanuvasa continues to surprise audiences, presenting impactful works in small, humble, vibrant packages. – LL
11 June – 13 July 2019
In June of last year, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Auckland announced the closure of the university’s three purpose-built specialist libraries and the consolidation of their collections into the General Library. Having previously been employed by the university to install and document their art collection (his 2014 series In Situ was borne from this role), Auckland-based photographer Samuel Hartnett was uniquely qualified for the commission that came to him from Objectspace: to make a record of these specialist library spaces. The resultant series, Ex Libris (2018), was shown at Objectspace earlier this year and has now made its way to Anna Miles Gallery where it sits alongside work from four other documentary photographers in the exhibition Neighbours.
Ex Libris is a quiet series of just 12 photographs. People appear in two of the works – Will’s Hands and Sarah’s Hair – although, as these titles suggest, we see only small details of them. Hartnett’s images convey the peculiar intimacy of these libraries, where one may spend so many hours amongst books and bodies, yet never speak to a soul. Librarians and other regulars become familiar mounds in the environment, their presence unremarkable even as it gently alters the space, whether by a rustle, a stack of books miraculously reinstated in their slender places, or by the slow, unintended gouging of wood from the surface of a door (as in Fingernails).
These photographs make me ponder those bureaucratic claims that the libraries are no longer “fit for purpose”, as though a library can hold a singular purpose, as though that purpose can be divined through foot traffic and lending data. Hartnett’s decision to focus on the quietude of the libraries, on intimate still lives and minutiae, honours the way these spaces are experienced by those who know their purpose inherently. – LB
Edith Amituanai, Samuel Hartnett, Allan McDonald, Solomon Mortimer, Haru Sameshima
Anna Miles Gallery
9 June – 6 July 2019
Ema Tavola (Aotearoa, Fiji) has been a champion of Pacific art in Tāmaki Makaurau for around 15 years. She was instrumental in the founding of Fresh Gallery Ōtara in 2006 and was curator there till 2012. Since at least 2013, she has wanted to start a gallery of her own in Ōtāhuhu. This month saw that dream come to fruition with launch of Vunilagi Vou (the name has various significances, but ‘new horizon’ is not a bad summary). The inaugural show, WWJD:2 (What Would Jim Do?: 2), follows Tavola’s final show at Fresh in paying homage to her mentor, the late Jim Vivieaere (Aotearoa, Kūki ʻĀirani). It includes work by thirteen artists of Moana heritage.
I found myself most captivated by MALE – Māori or Polynesian (2015) by Leilani Kake (Ngāpuhi, Tainui, Kūki ʻĀirani), a ‘lenticular print’ that shows one of three men depending on the angle from which it is viewed. The piece is as multifaceted in effect as it is in image, evoking hairstyle example photos and mugshots as well as novelty pictures of the sort you can purchase at dollar stores just down the road from the gallery. Like Vunilagi Vou more broadly, Kake’s work thumbs its nose at reduction and confidently embodies complexity – doing so less for visitors like me than for the people it stems from. – FM
Margaret Aull, Melissa Cole, Tanu Gago, Julia Mageʻau Gray, Leilani Kake, Andy Leleisiʻuao, Niutuiatua Lemalu, Sinia Malua, Molima Pihigia, Vea Mafileʻo, ʻAhotaʻeʻiloa Toetuʻu, Vaimaila Urale, and Daniel Weetman
1–29 June 2019
Feature image, top of page:
Salome Tanuvasa, Mirrored Systems, Tim Melville, 11 June – 13 July 2019
Photo: Kallan MacLeod, courtesy of Tim Melville
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.