The Unmissables: Four Exhibitions to see in August
A monthly round-up of notable, controversial and unmissable exhibitions in Tāmaki Makaurau and beyond.
July has been relentless with what seems like a perpetual turnover of new exhibitions and events in Tāmaki Makaurau. While Objectspace had it’s much anticipated re-opening in its new Ponsonby site declaring an expanded dedication to design, craft and architecture, it must be said that the most exciting exhibitions last month occurred in the suburbs. Out South we have been enjoying Kahoa Kakala a solo exhibition by Sione Monu at Fresh Gallery Ōtara, The Pimpi Winter Series curated by Ema Tavola at Lime Espresso Bar & Eatery, Otāhuhu and He Wai Mou! He Wai Mau! by Natalie Robertson at Māngere Arts Centre Ngā tohu o Uenuku. Out East Hainamana held the Asian New Zealand Artists Hui at Te Tuhi, a national gathering of Asian New Zealand artists and practitioners. And West Auckland has seen a suite of great exhibitions at Corban Estate Arts Centre under the new curatorship of Cora-Allan Wickliffe.
Because all of that is slightly overwhelming, our great team of writers has helped to narrow down the field for August, here are four unmissable exhibitions in Tāmaki Makaurau and Ōtepoti.
Upstairs in a small two-story flat on the corner of Upper Queen Street and Newton Road is a new artist run space called captcha. Its second show, ((())), features works by Ronan Lee and Jasper Owen.
ToteBagsAgainstUrbanBlight, a phrase included in some the titles of Lee’s works, comes from a dream of his, that at one point involved his workmate responding “no, that’s a tote bag bar”, when asked if he wanted to have a drink on K Rd. Around this same time, Lee worked as a labourer, he would turn up to openings in his overalls where people would complement him on his outfit. It is this dichotomy of inclusivity and exclusivity within contemporary art that Lee’s – paintings on found canvases with silver spray-paint, and bunny face imprints – comment on. Mirroring Lee's paintings are holes hammered into the walls that represent each painting’s negative. Lee says these are burrows for anyone who wants to escape the silver-chrome community.
"The question and the answer merge and become useless together,” says Owen about Family which appears as a sci-fi movie prop. Red lines run from the edge of a computer screen through letters to another set of letters that light up.
((())) interacts with the domesticity of the space (including the kitchen and a couch) and asks its viewers to consider various conceptual stepping stones in a homely environment that both shapes and has become shaped by the works. – Eloise Callister-Baker
Ronan Lee and Jasper Owen
14 July – 19 August 2017
Stepping into Nested Cells by Dan Arps is like entering a dungeon, albeit a superficial, and flimsily constructed one. Scratch a little deeper beneath painted brickwork and you’ll find a fascinating assortment of crusted forms, hallucinogenic maquettes and clever paintings that will lead you on a wild goose chase.
Arps playfully parodies McCahon’s spiritual affirmation with the banal ‘HI’ and the technological ‘I.T.’ while the letters ‘I.O.U.’ adorn the corners and edges of several paintings, a conceptual wedgie to the asceticism of formal abstraction.
This knowing yet mischievous attitude is carried through in a minimalist metallic cube, shoddily fabricated and playing stage to a pair of comically expressive plasticine chickens. A child-sized sculpture stands with a princess blanket draped over wire mesh and neon-painted plaster. Like lifting the skirt on a fairytale illusion, there are no heroic rescues required here.
Most intriguing is an architectural model held in a perspex lidded box. L-shaped like the gallery itself, and containing three miniature ‘sculptures,’ the model appears guarded by a furry dungeon-master. This creates a Russian doll effect, of dungeon within dungeon, painting within painting, that teases the viewer with the question: is this Arps himself, or the gallerist, playing the contemporary art game. – Amy Weng
26 July – 26 August 2017
Art works made using ‘craft’ media – such as ceramics, jewellery, and textiles – are not always afforded their due attention in Tāmaki Makaurau. Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery regularly features such works, and the recently rebooted Objectspace promises to continue doing the same, while also expanding its focus to include architecture and design. But few dealer galleries are in the business of craft.
A notable exception is Anna Miles Gallery, on Upper Queen Street, which is currently playing host to superlative exhibitions of textile art and jewellery. Vita Cochran’s Samplers includes a smorgasbord of modernist-flavoured embroideries every bit in league with the paintings one might otherwise encounter in the space, while Octavia Cook’s A Show of Eyes boasts a series of brooches that pushes well beyond the ornamental.
Cook’s pieces based on the eyes of animals are especially enchanting. Divorced from their bodily contexts, some are not immediately legible as eyes, appearing abstract. The titles of the works seem similarly abstruse, until one realises that the artist has chopped them out of the names of the animals. The eye of a sloth has been designated Slo (2017); that of an octopus, Topus (2017); that of a human, Mo Sapien (2017).
The brooches themselves suggest a wide range of references, from the protective Egyptian ‘Eye of Horus’ to the miniature paintings of ‘lover’s eyes’ exchanged in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the same time, they represent the best of contemporary making, their unseen reverse sides every bit as immaculate as their gem-like acrylic obverses – ready to scrutinise the world from lapel or breast pocket. – Francis McWhannell
the merrier by 2016 Frances Hodgkins Fellow Miranda Parkes at the Hocken Uare Taoka o Hākena is a stunning achievement. Eighteen months in the making, the merrier is a site-specific response to the Hocken gallery space, and to the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship – the 12-month residency that enabled Parkes to explore new materials, and the relationships between them.
Billowing gently in the gallery’s air conditioning is a large, patchwork silk banner that stretches diagonally from one freestanding interior wall to the other. As cocoon and concealer simultaneously, the lemon yellow, hot pink, indigo and ochre of the hand-dyed silk banner hustles the freestanding walls into forming one large sculptural work. These walls, as with all the gallery wall surfaces, have been painted any colour but white. In colours that resonate with the silk banner, Parkes has designed the painted geometric shapes that become works in their own right.
In conversation with the painted walls, Parkes has installed paintings – or more accurately painted art objects – in non-traditional areas, such as the narrow edge of a freestanding wall. This convex intervention is offset by a concave installation of four looped, “painterly” video works. Parkes has sensuously detourned the gallery into a generative space for multiple conversations. – Robyn Maree Pickens
Hocken Uare Taoka o Hākena
21 July – 28 October 2017
The Unmissables is presented in a partnership with the New Zealand Contemporary Art Trust, which covers the costs of paying our writers. We retain all editorial control.