I’ve been popping out and about in my “spare” time – which isn’t as spare as I might like to think – and checking out various art shows that have been on in the Wellington Region.
The other weekend though I took my family along to the Lego conference. Pretty cool. It was held at Expressions Whirinaki Arts and Entertainment Centre in Upper Hutt.
After escaping the Lego show and wandering through the rest of the gallery I came across an Art Exhibition, the Wellington Regional Arts Review. To be honest it was a little under-inspiring. The art was sadly lack-lustre, and the lay out of the show felt like it hadn’t been considered at all. I felt like my daughter Grace could have done as good, or a better job of setting up the displays.
That said, I did want to talk about two pieces that I felt deserved sharing from the show.
Title: Hansel & Gretal lost in the woods
Artist: Rebecca Holden
This was the first artwork that you saw when you walked into the gallery. Which, okay, is kinda good curating because with this one being Hansel and Gretal lost in the woods it pretty much is saying to you that by entering the gallery, you will also be lost in the woods. And to be fair, the rest of the art in the gallery was designed in a way to throw you a little off kilter, and to be almost surreal.
I was actually really excited to have stumbled about this exhibition when I came in to the gallery and saw this as the first piece of work. Unfortunately, while wandering the rest of the gallery I was less and less blown away. But back to the artwork above.
At first glance you wouldn’t imagine this to be Hansel and Gretal, the story characters who are brother and sister, loving of sweets, and taking on a big bad witch, a pair who are left in the woods by an unloving father who gets led astray by the devious ways of the new step-mother (always the step mother….) but really why does the Dad allow her to convince him his kids aren’t as important as she is. Terrible. Anyway, as you will find out (if you don’t already have kids) children’s stories are not all skipping and happy endings….
At first glance this pair look like lovers reclining together, my first thought is after love making, however this can’t be right because the second character still has his shoes on, and the first character is looking to him in a way that looks a little uncomfortable. Perhaps they are sitting together because one has just told the other something hard to hear and the first is feeling awkward about it. Either way the relationship between the two is hard to pick. The only idea that you can gauge about them is that they are (supposedly) brother and sister because of the title. But then looking at the features of the first person that person looks like a male as well. Perhaps they are brothers…? But my thought (and I could be way off) is that they are actually homosexual lovers, and that this is following their first confession to loving each other, their first foray into “coming out”. That certainly would be an awkward conversation, and it is hard to pick whether they have admitted it to each other, or whether one has said to the other, and the first finds it awkward, and not at all what they had in mind.
The painting is set in such a way that it feels very intimate. It feels like these two know each other very well, and that at any other time they would be comfortable with one another, but right now, in whatever moment has just happened, they are uncomfortable, and, yes, lost in the woods of whatever the situation has become from whatever has just passed between them.
The haphazard way that this has been painted, and the darkness of the painting almost taunts the viewer saying ‘you will never know what has just passed between us, try all you like to work it out, but you will never truely know’. I love this so much. For me, art should be about leaving some mystery in the work. Trust in your audience and let them think about the work, otherwise if you tell someone everything in the work, then your audience will not engage with the work other than to say to them, ‘ah yes I get it, lets move on now’.
The colour combinations of the artwork are also surprising. The background looks dark, and dirty, the colour combination for the background creates a sense of unease to me, the colours do not work, but this is to perfection! I love the colour combination so much, because it does stir something in me, perhaps it is an upchuck reflex, but I feel that with the thoughts this work stirs in me, an upchuck reflex just completely adds to the meaning and the message of the work. And the couple’s facial colouring makes them look sickly too. Like they have done something they really should not be doing, something that is sickening, and maybe socially or morally wrong, I do think possibly about drug addicts, and I thought initially, maybe that is what is going on here; but I felt that it couldn’t be drugs as the only thing happening here, because there is too much intimacy between the pair.
And my last thought on this one, is in it’s unfinished style. Again, perfection! This artwork leaves the story open ended. This tale has not finished, something is still to unfold, something that, again, the viewer is never going to know because you are not truely invited into this moment. The pair are turned away from the viewer, they are blocking the viewer and shielding themselves from the viewer with their arms tightly held across their fronts, and their hands clenched. They are turned away, even while their feet stretch out towards you, both with the viewer, and separate from them.
God I love this artwork! I want it on my wall so bad!
The second work that I wanted to mention, but only briefly is this one:
Artist: Caitlin Devoy
My first thought with this work was how similar it felt to Méret Oppenheim’s surreal artwork Le Déjeuner en fourrure (or in english Fur Breakfast or Breakfast in Fur).
The idea with Oppenheim’s artwork is to present something that at once is lavish, fur being something that is seen as being a material to indicate wealth particularly when worn, but at the same time off putting in that the use of this object is to drink from, to put in your mouth. But because of the juxtaposition (the combination) of these two things (the teacup and the fur) neither is this desirable or useful.
In regards to Devoy’s artworks, I found them similar because the items are practical items in and of themselves, however what has been done with them, the disgusting finger in the lipstick, and the long soft hair for the toothbrush, and the skim coming out of the toothpaste, makes them off-putting, and no one in their right mind would want to use them. However the difference with this artwork compared to Oppenheim’s is that while you could still use Oppenheim’s if you were game enough, you literally can not use Devoy’s items for their intended purpose.
No longer has she allowed these items to carry with them their intended purpose. But instead she has rendered them useless. They are now just objects with no purpose. And maybe that is her point. Maybe they never had any purpose, maybe beauty (because they are all originally beauty items) has no purpose. Maybe she is suggesting that there is something more important in this world that what we look like. But I would suggest that with two of the items being a toothbrush and Toothpaste I would suggest that these items (although only recently invented) are actually not so much beauty items, as they are health items, because if you don’t brush your teeth then they fall out and can make you – not only uncomfortable – but also unwell.
So then I would wonder, why has she chosen these items then? Is it because she is wanting to make reference to a mouth? Maybe these items are not designed to realise, maybe they are designed to seduce on some level? There is some strange sense of sex to these objects, in their human references, but they are also items that people use in a personal way, the toothbrush putting in and out of your mouth (LOL I am picturing teens doing that blow job gesture – that seems so wrong – but that is what this path is making me think) Maybe the tube is not actually toothpaste, maybe it is some other sort of cream, it really could be anything, haemorrhoid cream for all I know. Devon has conveniently made each object (other than the toothbrush – which is what is giving me my reference point) undefined, they really could be anything. Maybe the lipstick isn’t lipstick at all, maybe it is the bottom part of a bullet, and the finger is actually indicated to come a little closer to death, or something along those lines.
I dunno exactly what this artwork is for, maybe it is nothing. Maybe it is like Dada – all a bit of nonsense that is designed to make people think, but actually the work itself doesn’t have meaning at all. It could just be the starting point for a never ending train of thought and conversation. God, I hope that is the case, because wouldn’t that be an awesome awesome piece of controversial art, wouldn’t that be a fantastic new place to be taking art…
Let me know what you think about either artwork, or contact me to let me know what you’d like me to talk about or discuss next. Or if you have an artwork that you or someone you know has done that you think deserves being reviewed and talked about then send it through to me using the contact me part of my website: www.art-thunk.co.nz
Also make sure you keep checking back to my website and sending people through to the site. Lots of new ideas are in the pipelines, and I’m super excited! Keep checking things out.