The Unmissables: Special Edition

A bumper edition round-up of notable, controversial and unmissable exhibitions in Tāmaki Makaurau during Auckland Art Fair.

A bumper edition round-up of notable, controversial and unmissable exhibitions in Tāmaki Makaurau during Auckland Art Fair.

Last week was an exciting one for many in Tāmaki Makaurau as the Auckland Art Fair opened its doors. It was particularly exciting for us at The Pantograph Punch as we released our first ever print publication: a bumper edition of The Unmissables showcasing ten exhibitions open in brick-and-mortar galleries around the city during the Fair.

If you would like to get your hands on one of these historic publications, you may still be able to hunt one down – there are copies available at various shops, cafes and galleries around town. For those of you who would rather digest our special edition from the comfort of your own device – read on! Do bear in mind that some of these texts were written from previews of exhibitions that were on the cusp of opening as we went to press, while others were just about to close their doors. Do be sure to check opening dates carefully should you want to check out any of these shows yourself!

Night Hunt

I don’t consider myself a maximalist, but as I stand before Janet Beckhouse’s ceramic works, I think perhaps I could be.

These are not so much embellished vases (and one teapot) as they are vases built from embellishments: shining white roses, mounds of earthworms, mythological creatures, golden nudes tied up with looping tendrils of rope. Some are encrusted with rows of skulls, with red-eyed tree frogs, banksia pods clinging to them like molluscs. The titular work, Night Hunt, is overgrown with vines. Two cats clamber up its sides, pausing wild-eyed with limp rodents clamped in their jaws.

They are unsettling objects, simultaneously macabre and exuberant, covered in worms yet glowing with lustre. Of course, it is their idiosyncrasies that render them so compelling, the way they fuse the historic glazing style of Victorian majolica with iridescent colours, whimsical flora, and the almost bogan symbolism of skulls, snakes and roses. – Lucinda Bennett

Night Hunt
Janet Beckhouse
Ivan Anthony Gallery
2 – 26 May (now closed)


The word wantok in Tok Pisin – literally ‘one talk’ in English – references “people with a shared set of Melanesian cultural values” and is the title of the current exhibition at Māngere Arts Centre Ngā Tohu o Uenuku. While shared Melanesian cultural values appear as the initial hook into the exhibition, it doesn’t take long before we notice something else that is shared: hair.

Curated by Luisa Tora and with work from 11 Melanesian artists living in Australia and Aotearoa, WANTOK is an all-women affair. Focused on the importance, spirituality and symbolism of hair within Melanesian cultures, the exhibition is a spectacular display of strength and empowerment. The mana that hair holds for these women is made obvious in a large-scale lightbox triptych by Jasmine Togo-Brisby and moving image work by Luisa Tora. Both of these works return the audience’s gaze, holding onto it until the viewer walks away. These and other large works sit among more delicate pieces, together presenting a sophisticated weave of perspectives resulting in a complex, collective WANTOK narrative. – Lana Lopesi

Dulcie Stewart, Jasmine Togo-Brisby, Luisa Tora, Salote Tawale, Tufala Meri and Torika Bolatagici with Ayeesha Ash, Emele Ugavule, Lienors Torre, kei Thelma Thomas
Mangere Arts Centre Ngā Tohu o Uenuku
21 April – 26 May

Lines of Desire

Something about the shape of crosses attracts me – the way a line traverses space twice and interlinks with itself. It suggests a serenity of uncluttered relationship. Stephen Bambury’s plus-signs are like religious artefacts. Their weathered textures are a conversation with air, their shining changeability a conversation with light. They have a sense of history and the arcane. His other pieces – like origami – evoke movement and stillness, the way a cityscape changes as you pass through it.

His artworks introduce a clarity and cleanness to the spaces they occupy. They have a complex simplicity about them, and engage other objects in perpetual dialogue. They change colour like choral harmony. Cathedral-like, their dynamics change as the viewer moves through the room. Some seem too small for a gallery setting. I imagine them coming to life within a more everyday room, speaking indefinitely with their surroundings. These pieces hold the power to activate a space. – Alice Karetai

Lines of Desire
Stephen Bambury
Trish Clark Gallery
8 April – 27 May (now closed)

Contemporary China Spirit

In this joint show at OREXART, Beijing-based painters Deng Xinli & Xie Yi present a suite of works that attempt to capture the zeitgeist of contemporary China. Deng Xinli’s works are rich in symbology and wry humour: white rabbits masquerade as the noble Gentlemen of Confucian philosophy, complete with antique ding (vessels), jian (double-edged swords), and branches of plum blossoms. In another canvas, Chang’e, the goddess of the moon, shares her lunar abode with the American flag and its dreams of cold-war dominance. Combining Chinese histories and folkloric imaginaries with graphic precision, Deng presents fantastical scenarios that are at once seductive and subversive.

Meanwhile, Xie Yi’s paintings pose a more reflective counterpoint. Ethereal horses foreground expressive and muted-toned landscapes recalling the calligraphic tradition of shan shui (landscape) painting. The artist states that these works function like meditation, bringing the inseparable relation between man and nature in Daoist practice to the fore. This theme recurs in monochromatic paintings by Deng, perhaps indicative of a collective sense of longing, even loss, in a nation that has experienced a meteoric rise to power within a single generation. Contemporary China Spirit is an intriguing show that demonstrates how these Chinese artists grapple with complex social and cultural legacies. It’s also indicative of the decentralisation of global art markets from the West to the East, a phenomenon that is already immanent on our shores. – Amy Weng

Contemporary China Spirit
Deng Xinli & Xie Yi
3 – 28 May (now closed)

What we do at Home: PDX > AKL & Between you and me

What we do at home: PDX > AKL and Between you and me are two exhibitions now on at ST PAUL St Gallery. Each of these shows makes very different assertions about contemporary Indigenous experience, and it is the placing of these two exhibitions alongside one another that makes them so successful.

So often, Indigeneity is framed within a binary of ‘authentic’ and ‘non-authentic’, with those who fit within the visual tropes of a culture being viewed as the ‘authentic’ while the ‘non-authentic’ are those who are less visually identifiable. What we do at home: PDX > AKL by BC Collective members Cora-Allan Wickliffe and Daniel Twiss is an exhibition that picks up on the visual tropes of Indigeneity, making clear signals to whakapapa, ancestors and various homelands. Meanwhile, the group exhibition Between you and me, including work from Louisa Afoa, Natasha Matila-Smith and Molly Rangiwai-McHale, seeks to move beyond the shared commonality of being Indigenous to highlight points of difference in the artists’ practices.

Sitting side by side, the binary is broken down and instead we see the spectrum of contemporary Indigenous experience. Together, these exhibitions offer a refreshing and non-combative take on the multiplicities of shared experience. – Lana Lopesi

What we do at Home: PDX > AKL
Cora-Allan Wickliffe and Daniel Twiss
Between you and me
Louisa Afoa, Natasha Matila-Smith and Molly Rangiwai-McHale
ST PAUL St Gallery
19 April – 1 June

Scratch a cenotaph

Falling in love with Peter Hawkesby’s works in his home studio, I feel echoes of a revelatory moment I had as a teenager encountering Karl Fritsch’s grotesque, enchanting rings for the first time. The line between craft and art is wonderfully blurred when an artist makes a craft their own.

Since the 1970s, Hawkesby has created works calculated to subvert both the history and how-to of pottery. After halting his practice, almost entirely, to run Alleluya Bar & Café in St Kevin’s Arcade for 20 years, Hawkesby wondered if he would ever return to it. Thankfully he has, partly through redeploying pieces made earlier in his career in concert with new formations to create a series of cenotaphs to memorialise his loved ones. Each piece conveys layered narratives told through many of Hawkesby’s own idiosyncratic gestures and materials – ticks, screens and infinity windows, some of which were retrieved from beneath a compost heap in his sister’s garden. For those no longer alive, especially his close friend and artist-potter Warren Tippett, Hawkesby also created these works to hear people speak their names again.

Forty years ago, Hawkesby worked against and beyond the Anglo-Oriental movement in pottery. Today, Hawkesby is still creating spectacular, poignant works that pulse with a love for people and pottery. Scratch a cenotaph at Anna Miles Gallery will be a show to celebrate. – Eloise Callister-Baker

Scratch a cenotaph
Peter Hawkesby
Anna Miles Gallery
13 May — 8 June

Never an Answer: 12 Abstract Painters

A number of all-women exhibitions seem to be taking hold across the country, and we shouldn’t have it any other way. I say this because the calibre of art made by women in Aotearoa is incredibly high, and in 2018 we have the added leverage of commemorating 125 years of women’s suffrage.

One exhibition created specifically for the Suffrage 125 celebrations is Never an Answer: 12 Abstract Painters. It is The Vivian’s first all-women painting show and it is a good one,with a somewhat unexpected line-up of abstract painters ranging from the established (such as Sally Gabori and Anoushka Akel) to the emerging (including Ruth Ige and Christina Pataialii), all of whom are woven seamlessly into a multi-scale, multi-textural installation.

Referring to the continuous quest of asking questions, pondering and contemplating, Never an Answer makes space for material explorations. Located about an hour out of the city in Matakana, Never an Answer: 12 Abstract Painters is the perfect excuse for a day trip. – Lana Lopesi

Never an Answer: 12 Abstract Painters
Anoushka Akel, Emelia French, Lucy Gill, Ruth Ige, Claudia Jowitt, Viv Kepes, Motoko Kikkawa, Christina Pataialii, Kim Pieters, Tira Walsh, Vivienne Worn and Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori, Kaiadilt people, Australia (1924–2015)
The Vivian
5 May – 10 June

Coffee Perhaps

You can stop kicking yourself for having missed Erica van Zon’s Solo 2016 presentation at The Dowse – the bulk of it is now on show at Melanie Roger Gallery.

Coffee Perhaps was inspired by New Zealand’s first art dealer, Helen Hitchings, whose eponymous gallery opened on Bond Street, Wellington, back in 1949. Van Zon sees this body of work as a way of honouring her – telling parts of her story through objects, and through the creation of an environment where people feel at ease with art just as they once did in her gallery. Indeed, the casual hospitality suggested by the title Coffee Perhaps is something Hitchings was renowned for – her gallery was a space where visitors could have a cigarette and touch the art, could dream up their own ideas and be exposed to the ideas of others.

It has just occurred to me how very appropriate it is that I so often want to touch van Zon’s work. This suite in particular includes pieces made of printed silk, leather scales, stained glass and smooth ceramics. Most delicious to my mind are her beaded works, delicate pieces that often echo the forms of tiles or parquet flooring. – Lucinda Bennett

Coffee Perhaps
Erica van Zon
Melanie Roger Gallery
23 May – 16 June

In Praise of Volcanoes

Adjacent to the Objectspace entrance, Warwick Freeman’s structure stands quietly In Praise of Volcanoes. Four posts ground the corners of a square embedded with scoria tiles, their sides crisply polished to accentuate their frothy surfaces. Along the edges facing outward, the posts rhythmically increase to form a screen that shelters the artwork from the road.

This is no monument of bombasity. The vertical wooden beams have been charred black like dragon skin, warped and ignited through the Japanese preservation technique shou sugi ban. The scoria paving is sparse and wobbly like the volcanic geography of Tāmaki Makaurau, with molten pools and hammered metal nuggets hidden in cavities. Light streams down from above, extending the sculpture ad infinitum through the artificial, shiny ceiling of the building’s canopy.

An ode to volcanoes, to shadows and the imperceptible hand of the artist, In Praise of Volcanoes is an esoteric contemplation of interior space and psychological vastness that embraces materiality, architecture and design. – Becky Hemus

In Praise of Volcanoes
Warwick Freeman
28 July 2017 – 30 June 2018

Stolen Leopard*

Stolen Leopard at Michael Lett Gallery is a fantastic pairing of new works by Australian artist Diena Georgetti and the gallery’s own Imogen Taylor. Although the artists may be a generation apart, their paintings suggest they share an uncannily similar approach to both aesthetics and humour. I think the following description of Georgetti’s from Robert Leonard could almost be applied to work from both artists, and helps to shed some light on the show’s title. Leonard writes:

While there may be a general sense that her contents are second-hand, their sources remain elusive. We are left with a sense of déjà vu – the uncanny sense that we have seen these things before but can’t place them. They have been reanimated.

In a gallery that represents such a number of conceptual artists, it is somewhat disorienting to find works that could be located within the modernist canon. I tend to think of modernist painting and conceptualism as occupying quite different realms, but there are conceptual elements within these apparently modernist paintings – frames within frames, elements of pastiche and acrylic puzzles with unexpected, potentially psychological, details (a duck? an eye? curving leaves? a disembodied leg?) – which I find myself admiring. – Eloise Callister-Baker

Stolen Leopard
Diena Georgetti & Imogen Taylor
Michael Lett Gallery
27 April – 26 May (now closed)

*This piece was previously published in The Unmissables for May 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.

With special thanks to Tyrone Ohia for his work in designing our beautiful print publication.

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

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

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