The Unmissables: Three Artworks to See in November

The best art on show in the dealer galleries of Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland in November 2020.

A monthly round-up of artworks from the dealer galleries of Tāmaki Makaurau that we keep returning to.

This month's Unmissables dances across into the mirrored surface of the disco ball, into abstraction, dreams and being a teenager.

Our team of art critics, India Essuah, Tulia Thompson and Faith Wilson, have trawled the streets of Auckland to showcase some of the most exciting art on show.

Starting out as a series of clippings from Italian architecture magazine Abitare, Kristy Gorman’s latest works distill moments of architectural beauty. Perfectly balanced geometric forms, made up of impeccably gentle gradients, reveal the woven lines of the canvas and linens below. The works’ layers are so delicate, and the lines so sharp, it almost seems impossible they’re created by hand. This controlled use of lilacs, greys, blues, soft greens and maroon have a calming effect, and the works are somehow both quiet and commanding. Sharp lines and angles of the compositions seem to warp, or even animate, the canvases they sit within, suggesting sunlight and shadows, or the changing gradient of a sky as seen through a window. Some works almost resemble floor plans, or embody the deceptive simplicity of an architectural drawing, that expertly and effortlessly captures the essence of a real or imagined space.

While Abitare magazine showcases plenty of grandeur, the show celebrates the beauty in simplicity. I’m often surprised just how excited I get when light shines across my desk or bedroom floor in the afternoon, creating a transient, travelling rhombus, like those that are present throughout Gorman’s work. Seeing familiar patterns, textures and details celebrated in art works in a cyclical way – where they then seem more special when they appear in daily life, whether that’s a particular combination of colours together, or as light on a building, or streaming through a bedroom window onto fresh linen. A book in the form of a concertina is available alongside the exhibition, and the graceful, angular form beautifully compliments the paintings inside. – IE

Anna Miles Gallery
11 - 28 November 2020

Gorman's artworks will also appear in Painting, Painting, Painting, Anna Miles Gallery, 29 November - 5 December 2020

Kristy Gorman, Mesa, 2020. Image: Sam Hartnett

I thought I might write about sweeping, majestic landscapes by Lance O'Gorman at the International Art Centre in Parnell which could act as a conduit for a particular conversation landscape and the psyche in Aotearoa. Instead, the artworks that moved me spoke of interiors; the domestic, the decorative, and even the inner world, and the imaginary.

Which leads me to New Plymouth artist, Jasmine Middlebrook. In A New Dawn, a tiger pads silently over grey rocks jutted out over green water. Submerged to her waist, stands a young teenage girl. The bright moss and jagged fall of water make the scene undeniably Aotearoa. You can feel the mist rising from the cascades. It is that familiar watering hole you have passed while hiking in summer, where you have stopped and taken off your sneakers, and drank water from your plastic Kathmandu bottle. The girl is almost a 1980s New Romantic, wearing an off-the-shoulder embroidery anglaise gown with oversized puffed sleeves. She is pensive, contemplating an orange she holds in both hands.

It reminds me of the dream sequence in The Labyrinth, when Sarah bites the poisoned peach and is, either, transported to a fantastical masquerade ball, or made conscious of the Goblin King’s inappropriate desire for her, depending on how you read it.

I remember, too, that particular weird moment from my own teenagehood when I was 12 or 14 and suddenly broached adulthood and was looked at differently, made an object. There’s a photo of me dressed up in my auntie’s dark blue dress with lipstick painted on, looking jubilantly forwards to my new life, unaware that my own unfolding, fledging desire would lead to so many labyrinths. Actual harm. Because our culture of toxic masculinity is unsafe for young women.

Middlebrook’s juxtapositions of the familiar and the strange could loosely be described as surrealist. Post-war surrealism was influenced by Freud’s work on dreams and the unconscious. In A New Dawn, a dream-life feels present.

Those potent, portent places where we glimpse other worlds. – TT

Three paintings by Jasmine Middlebrook
International Art Centre, Parnell

Jasmine Middlebrook, A New Dawn, 2020. Image courtesy of International Art Centre

Jonny Niesche’s Poikilos at Starkwhite is the exhibition of my 16-year-old self’s dreams. Colourful, trippy and aesthetically purring, this exhibition is like a 12-inch ode to disco-era-infused abstract expressionism. The whole thing is an experience - you have to put on those weird quarantine booties before you enter the gallery so you don’t mark the dazzlingly white floor. The artworks are bright and pastelly coloured and remind me of the rainbow bus stop a few metres up on K’ Road. Three large, square, artworks that hang on the wall are arresting, yet hard to look at: fuzzy and bright, and they seem like they’re moving, drawing you in hypnotically, not to another world but possibly to an altered state of mind. They’re dyed prints on voile, and the intensity of the colours plus the blurred lines on the fabric induces a buzzy feeling. Four columns of different heights and widths stand on the other side of the gallery, (they also have amazing names reminiscent of the disco era: Musk, Dusk, Dust; Psychic Powder). Some sides of these columns are mirrored, and others covered in the same dyed voile. Walking through the columns is like walking through a hall of mirrors (I think - I’ve never actually been to one irl). As you walk around, you catch glimpses of yourself, chopped and screwed, contributing to that dazed and disjointed, though not unpleasant, feeling you get upon entering the space.

The artwork that fits in most with my imagined life as a fresh-faced NYC writer, is a big diamond-shaped artwork that hangs from the ceiling, slowly rotating, like a fractured disco ball: Glänzen Teilen (Seagrass to Rosemary Blossom). I imagine it hanging in my Brooklyn loft apartment, caressing the air as it spins slowly while Odyssey’s Native New Yorker plays in the background at yet another one of my famed parties. I always liked big, colourful and not necessarily deep artworks (yes, I unashamedly fangirl Jeff Koons), and this plays right into that aesthetic. Upon deeper introspection though, the mirrored surface helps to remind me it’s not all candy-powder-blush and white floors. That the surface isn’t really any less deep than the thing/s beneath it. This thought is echoed in the exhibition text:

Disco may be celebrated for its shiny brightness and flashy aesthetic, but its inclusivity, impact, and cultural contribution run deep. Shared with Niesche’s practice is a celebration of the surface as site for performance, for aesthetic experimentation, and socio-cultural investigation as much as pleasure and beauty.

Disco, mirrors, pop-culture, performance and powder. If this exhibition does anything, it reminds me that there is power in both small and large gestures. That art can move. And that it can be fun at the same time. If revolution can happen in gold halter necks on the dancefloor, it gives me fire to keep revolting, in any form. – FW

17 November - 15 December 2020

Jonny Niesche, installation view, 2020. Image courtesy of Starkwhite

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.

Feature image: Jonny Niesche, installation view, image courtesy of Starkwhite

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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