The Unmissables: Three Exhibitions to See in October
A monthly round-up of artworks in Tāmaki Makaurau that we keep returning to.
Soft sculptures and spiky crustaceous cakes. Pastels and pearlescent sheen. Feminine aesthetics prevail in Claudia Jowitt and Hanna Shim’s sculptural works, in contrast to the monochromatic, punk zine palette of Hugo Koha Lindsay’s large-scale abstract paintings.
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.
I am no stranger to Claudia Jowitt’s “campy cake paintings”. I saw her work at the first AUT grad show I ever attended, and I recognised it immediately a few years later when visiting a friend in their studio at Elam, where Jowitt was completing her Masters. I vividly remember the white walls of her space, lined with pale paintings textured with iridescent scales; the spatulas, palette knives and piping bags laid upon the desk. A few months later, at the 2015 Elam grad show, I walked alongside a mural-sized version of those studies, sugary smears of paint, piped pastel squiggles and glossy rosettes squeezed onto fine linen. It felt as though I could drag my finger across the surface and it would come up covered in frosting. It felt delicious and baroque, frivolous and monumental, a giddy painted paradox the size of a wall.
I love Jowitt’s work for its refusal to be less than. Not only is her paint application unashamedly decorative, her palette is pastel and pearlescent, her finished pieces embedded with paua and vau fibre, embellished with tiny piped beads of gold. These are paintings that seem to revel in their excesses, daring you to call them feminine, laughing when you do (like that’s an insult?). To my mind, these most recent works have only leaned further into excess, exchanging some of their sweetness for something more prickly. They have become more like crustaceans than cakes, the kind of shells you hope you won’t stand on when you venture onto the reef, beautiful but dangerous to collect, a perfect pearl glimpsed behind the barnacled teeth of an oyster. – LB
Sa lo na ua (Between Tides)
Melanie Roger Gallery
16 October – 9 November 2019
Auckland-based painter Hugo Koha Lindsay (Wellington, 1987) is one of a number of emerging artists cementing a place for themselves in the art market with large-scale abstract painting. Lindsay holds a Masters of Fine Art from Elam School of Fine Arts and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Whitecliffe. In a short period, he has amassed a long list of awards, including the 2017 and 2015 Parkin Drawing Prize Merit Award; the Molly Morpeth Canaday Painting and Drawing Award, 2016; the Kaipara Wallace Arts Trust Award, 2015; the Walker and Hall, Zinni Douglas Merit Award, 2014. The artist’s work has also been acquired by the Tattersfeld Collection and the Wallace Arts Trust Collection.
Hiding from the rain in Auckland’s city centre, I stumbled into of common walls, Lindsay’s latest exhibition at Gow Langsford gallery. Across eight paintings on stretched cotton the exhibition’s palette is largely monochromatic except for rushes of deep yellow and sprays of highlighter orange. The orange makes an appearance down one side of Figure 13 – the first painting that greets you from the gallery’s street side – with a confident, warm, silvery grey up the other. A thick but sheer layer of black has been briskly moved around the surface of the canvas, leaving only its residue. Whereas some of the other works in the exhibition are trying to do the most, Figure 13 is simple, yet decisive. of common walls, an apt show for the dreary spring transition in Tāmaki Makaurau. – LL
Hugo Koha Lindsay
of common walls
Gow Langsford Gallery
2–26 October 2019
Hanna Shim (born Korea, lives Aotearoa) is known for her fantastical soft sculptures. In Bone Like This, she adds solid elements and explores serious matters – particularly mortality. Classic emblems of death appear, moments of whimsy tempering the morbid. A woollen worm protrudes quizzically from a ceramic skull. A skeleton arm is displayed in a glowing pink Perspex coffin not a little appropriate to the Halloween season. There is a sense that Shim is pondering not only dying but also what constitutes a good life. Thoughts on Aging comprises a plush elephant encased in a zip-up leather snake, alluding to the picture book The Little Prince, and suggesting the freedom of childhood imagination. This work sits alongside Thoughts on Sin, a similar snake enveloping an apple, which evokes the Garden of Eden and so a loss of innocence.
Several works reflect Korean culture. A digital print on fabric represents a folk tale about Miss Mouse and her search for a bridegroom, running through a host of suitors, from a cat to a statue of the Buddha. In the context of the exhibition, the specific narrative seems less important than the conception of existence as a journey or cycle (Shim poetically refers to the notion that we are “born soft – grow hard – die soft”). The works that most linger in my memory are two shimmering orbs: heads with stitched black lashes, eyes closed. One, Pearl – Thoughts on Pain, is opaque and swollen-full, while the other, Thoughts on Weight of the Soul, is diaphanous, collapsing in on itself. Both pieces underscore Shim’s ability to materialise universal experiences with uncommon freshness and economy. – FM
Bone Like This
6 October – 1 November 2019
Feature image, top of page:
Hanna Shim, Thoughts on Aging and Thoughts on Sin, 2019.
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.