The Unmissables: Four Exhibitions to see in October
A monthly round-up of notable, controversial and unmissable exhibitions in Tāmaki Makaurau and beyond.
September welcomed in a new suite of great exhibitions around Auckland city including Hey Bey – Hymn For The Weak End by Bepen Bhana at Fresh Gallery Ōtara and Robert George’s a memoir of falling light at Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery. Artspace and Tautai’s annual offering OFFSTAGE 8 also opened highlighting the depth and breadth of Pacific moving image practices. As well as this it seems to have been a month of literary festivals with the New Zealand Young Writers Festival in Dunedin and WORD Christchurch happening down South. However, there’s a visual art festival looming too, Artweek, an annual week-long festival that celebrates the arts kicks off on 7 October.
To help you navigate the latest art offerings this month our team have assembled four unmissable exhibitions in Tauranga and Tāmaki Makaurau.
Here and Now
Here and Now is a group exhibition at Malcolm Smith Gallery of four women artists who live in Tāmaki Makaurau, or have once resided here. The show takes as a point of departure the pioneering spirit of aviatrix Jean Batten, and the little-known history of Howick as her childhood home. But this exhibition really alights on contemporary women navigating complex and personal journeys, and the uncertainty or potential for failure immanent in any outbound exploration.
Tori Ferguson presents two video performances of simple, repetitive actions. In one of these, the artist sits with hands nested, working an anxious thumb into her fingers. This sense of precarity is carried through in the luscious paintings by Ayesha Green. Here woman as voyager, explorer and creationary figure are dramatised within stylised and paradisiacal terrains. Their fears, sorrows and vulnerabilities create a powerful counter-narrative of migration anchored within the talanoa of the Pacific.
A series of canvases by Anh Trần, with names such as LAX and JFK explore painterly surfaces and transitory states, but it is the graffiti like scrawls on the gallery wall that are emphatic and affirmative marks of ownership and place. Finally, two cast glass works by Zainab Hikmet created from the sand of two Half Moon Bays create an alchemical equation poised on the edge of collapse: how can a sense of exploration draw us closer to an understanding of home? Here and Now approaches this intangible measure with great sensitivity and wonder. – Amy Weng
Here and Now is filled with clever transgressions that take me all across the one-room space inspecting works from above, behind and all over again.
You need to cast your eyes down upon Green’s Tangaroa have mercy on us all, an acrylic work of a woman (maybe all women) falling into a fiery sea. Its vibrance and horizontal display simulates a vortex. The frantic lines of Trần’s gestural paintings seem so full of energy that one part of the painting sits off the wall. On another wall, a black spray-painted line has escaped altogether. Hikmet’s two glass cubes (made from Half Moon Bay sand) sit in alcoves in opposite walls. In Ferguson’s two video works depict hands resting on legs and a body endlessly treading water in a pool. Hard to watch, the films anchor the same sense of anxiety and intrigue which is so craftily manufactured in the show’s curation itself.
Howick is a long way from the cluster of galleries on Karangahape Road, but a 30-minute bus drive is well worth it for such an intriguing show. – Eloise Callister-Baker
Here and Now
Tori Ferguson, Ayesha Green, Zainab Hikmet and Anh Trần
Malcolm Smith Gallery
18 September – 28 October 2017
ETA (Edith’s Talent Agency)
ETA (Edith’s Talent Agency) is a documentary exhibition with a difference. Mimicking a modelling agency, the exhibition includes street portraits, over 100 polaroid portraits of talent from the artists West Auckland neighbourhood of Ranui and a friendship book style Zine.
Amituanai has been taking her time to develop ETA (Edith’s Talent Agency), which is the artist’s first solo exhibition in four years at her dealer Anna Miles Gallery, and for good reason. Amituanai has been working voluntarily within Ranui’s youth community for years, forming friendships beyond art, raising the question of how to best represent this community.
Considering some of Amituanai’s previous photographs of students walking to school taken from the artist’s driveway as well as her most recent project with Kimiora School, there is one word which lingers over her practice and that is agency, a question of whether or not the youth in her work have agency over their own representation. For ETA Amituanai has answered that directly, by showcasing youth not as subjects of her work but as friends with their own unique talents, worth paying attention too. Transporting the suburbs to the city, ETA (Edith’s Talent Agency) is a show of future gazing highlighting the skill and talent hidden beyond our visibility but most of all it’s about giving young people agency, uncompromised agency. – Lana Lopesi
ETA (Edith’s Talent Agency)
Anna Miles Gallery
2 – 27 October 2017
Te Pou Wiini Atu: First Past the Post
Election Day saw maverick space Mokopōpaki launch a multi-faceted exhibition by PĀNiA! Marama Inc. called Te Pou Wiini Atu: First Past the Post, a reference to the pre-MMP election system and to horse racing, long popular among Māori. The works on show – some durable and for sale, some temporary – were created by anonymous artist PĀNiA!, more often than not in collaboration with academic/artist p. mule of et al.
Collaboration is not unusual at Mokopōpaki, where the mysterious sister and brother duo Yllwbro also show regularly. The mode of working seems particularly relevant in the context of this exhibition, which tackles questions of Māori sovereignty, the legacy of Te Tiriti o Waitangi (with its various versions and signatories), and the nature of Mokopōpaki itself, a collective that seeks to enact or embody a Māori worldview in a country dominated by Pākehā politics and, in the words of Mokopōpaki, ‘multicultural myth-making’.
There is a list of works yellow-taped to the wall in the space’s house style, but Associate Director and ‘Keeper of the House’ Jacob Terre provides any detail required, acting as an adaptable intercessor between artist/artwork and visitor. As is so often the case with Mokopōpaki shows, the works are marked by wit and whimsy. Pithy titles and frank visual puns give them an immediate appeal, but none represents a one-liner or throwaway thought. All unpack and linger.
I’m particularly impressed by the poetic Māori Rolls (2017), a set of seven crusty white supermarket or local bakery rolls, floating and staling on the brown wall of Mokopōpaki’s back room. Standing in for the seven Māori seats in Parliament, the work seems to ask not whether the seats should remain, but whether we should put up with so insubstantial, so disposable an ‘offering’ – a question that feels all the more urgent following the Māori Party’s exit from Parliament. – Francis McWhannell
To Pou Wiini Atu: First Past the Post
PĀNIA! Marama Inc.
23 September – 4 November 2017
ATA: A Third Reflection and Irihanga
Professor Bob Jahnke has been in the engine room of Māori art for decades: innovating his theoretical base, evolving his artistic practice, and embodying the words ‘awhi’ and ‘manaaki’ in his teaching. Bob’s doctoral thesis wrote of three paradigms of Māori art – customary, non-customary and trans-customary, and its contribution to Māori art history presents a foundation on which the kōrero around ‘what constitutes contemporary Māori art?’ can form.
As his theory builds in three parts so too does his exhibition, ATA: A Third Reflection now on at Tauranga Art Gallery. ATA is the latest iteration in an ongoing deliberation regarding Te Pō and Te Ao. His works, a collection of light boxes, present an instant visual impact that deepen as they draw you in. Though their appeal is immediate (and highly Instagram-able), the layers of mātauranga on which they’re built are immense, immeasureless. His use of te reo in the names of the works are a hint at this depth (taimana, karapu, tuku).
In the adjoining gallery is a video work by one of Bob’s past students, Bridget Reweti. Bridget’s work Irihanga is a sobering cleanser to the luminescent wonder of ATA. Labelled by the colonial government as ‘unsurrendered rebels’, Irihanga was a settlement of Pai Marire followers razed to the ground by the notorious Gilbert Mair and the Te Arawa Flying Column. The quietness of the video work, a swaying rimu tree overlaid with her Nan reading a children’s story, beckons contemplation of this heavy history.
Seeing these shows together allows a deeper reading of the kōrero that they, quite literally, bring to light. In a wider sense they represent composite parts of ‘contemporary Māori art’, a concept so amorphous that definitions seem unnecessary. Yet, it is in these works that we can find some answers. – Matariki Williams
ATA: A Third Reflection and Irihanga
Bob Jahnke and Bridget Reweti
Tauranga Art Gallery
9 September 2017 – January 2018
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.