So to the art….after kimchi at the Arts Centre Market (I also travel for Korean food) I went direct to the hallowed halls of The Christchurch Art Gallery.
The problem with going to exhibitons nearing the end of their run is that you may have read all the reviews and been unduly influenced. I tried to put any prior knowledge aside as I toured the galleries though. After the fact it was very useful to read the gallery’s bulletins B.157 & B.158 though.
It was the closing weekend of the Ronnie van Hout show “Who goes there’. I am not a HUGE van Hout fan but I enjoy some of his work. I did like the focus of this show which I am not sure is just indicative of his latest output or selected that way. There seems to be a sharpened focus on ‘self’, although it’s always been a prominent theme. Standout for me was ‘The Thing’ from the artist’s Antarctic experience which was more disturbing than it should have been. Also the video works in the foyer of the artist knocking on his own door (no answer) was affecting. Even with the humourous subjects there was a subtle menace to it all. To me, the sound from ‘Bedsit’ underlined this atmosphere. I am glad I didn’t miss the peep show either.
Next was Seraphine Pick. I was really interested in seeing this retrospective, after the tiny Pick show I saw at the Mahara Gallery in 2008. I hate to say it, but this exhibition didn’t enthrall me. It was ‘more of the same’ and seemed quite rambling. However, I was taken by her more recent works and the “Zombies round the Campfire’ painting (sorry can’t recall the name) made a lasting impression.
The last of the three major exhibitions on was et al’s Thats Obvious! That’s Right! That’s True! Entering this exhibition was my meaningful art moment of 2009. I was really looking forward to this as I had not seen an et al installation before and I was not disappointed. ‘People in the know’ have told me this work is great but not the greatest of et al. I was completely floored by it though. I guess my impression was of an Orwellian New Zealand of an 1984 nature. I was confused, informed, disoriented, assaulted with audio/visual material, lectured…. Although many other visitors seemed to walk in to the gallery space and straight back out, I was mesmerised by it all and it felt to me like the ultimate answer to the rather spurious “but is it art?” question (YES!, YES!, YES!).
At this point I was a bit of a stunned mullet and floated through the smaller exhibitions on the upper floors. Points to be noted here:
- The White on White show was a great idea and I thought a clever selection. Fun to see such diversity on a theme
- Cloud 9 was interesting and nice to see some emerging artists. I particularly wanted to see how Mike Cooke’s work held up in the gallery environment, having recently seen these two paintings in his studio. It worked very very well in my opinion.
I came back to the gallery the following day and managed to take in the tiny Gembox gallery then as well. Lovely plumage McCahon in there – and good to see a Lowry for the first time.
My second visit cemented my thoughts on the ‘Big Three’ Suite of exhibitions (van Hout, Pick, et al) . My main thought was how these artists all projected a (their?) view of the world and how diverse and distorted that was. I have talked before about photography being like looking directly through another pair of eyes, but I felt that through these shows I was seeing the mind games as well. Pick’s zombies, the multiple versions of van Hout and the et al sensory assault all seemed part of the same dream/nightmare place that most of us inhabit.
*Images from all these exhibitions can be found on the Christchurch Art Gallery website via the links included.