Art New Zealand

Art New Zealand Spring #163

New Zealand’s most respected and widely-read visual arts magazine, Art New Zealand presents an independent quarterly round-up of the visual arts in New Zealand, by the country’s best art writers.

New Zealand
Art New Zealand 2009 Ltd


paul cullen (1949–2017)

In Xiaolu Guo’s film UFO In Her Eyes there is a delightful scene when the head of the village, Chief Chang, arranges small ceramic cups and a teapot on a tray in her office to show Kwok Yun, the female mine worker, how the earth and other planets move around the sun. It reminded me of the sequence at the beginning of Béla Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies, when János Valuska, the idiot savant town postman, guides some inebriated patrons of the local bar through a fumbled choreography of celestial bodies in motion, transforming the clumsy patrons into sun, moon, and earth to enact a solar eclipse. Both set pieces, both object-based diagrams in time, reminded me of Paul Cullen’s decades-long preoccupation with the improvised and the provisional—not to mention his particular…


Auckland Ian Scott Sprayed Stripes and New Lattices Michael Lett, 17 May–17 JuneEDWARD HANFLING Ian Scott began the Sprayed Stripes series in 1973. He was in his late twenties, full of love for living. The paintings pulse with energy, audacity, inspiration, feelings for light and the environment, feelings for materials― the promise of an untouched canvas, the direct power of the spray can and the delicate diffusion of its marks. Scott started work on the New Lattices just before he was diagnosed with cancer, and they span his last five difficult years. Perhaps some of them have an icy severity, compared to the warmth and sensuousness of the Sprayed Stripes. But to see the artist’s late work only through the lens of his circumstances is to miss the inventiveness of the paintings and their…

self and the world

Megan Jenkinson has been making photographs for four decades, images that are a mix of the cerebral, the haptic, the political and the personal. Discussing her career with the artist, Peter Ireland asked whether she had always been drawn to disrupting the conventions of so-called ‘straight’ photography. Megan Jenkinson: In the 1970s there was this prevailing notion of the straight photograph, which was typically black-and-white, documentary and uncropped; it would be technically perfect with a full range of tones, and a series of such images would all be the same size. To prove a photograph was uncropped the clear emulsion around the negative was printed as a black frame to ensure that what the photographer ‘saw’ when taking the photograph was unedited and transcribed into the finished print. Colour was…

shooting the waves

Tucked into the first-floor reading room of the National Library, the Turnbull Gallery has the area of a domestic living room. Here, well-crafted little exhibitions illuminate Aotearoa New Zealand’s history and culture. The modest space generates an intimacy often lacking in conventional museums, but it also creates design challenges. In Nga Wahine Maori: Beyond the ‘Dusky Maiden’, curators Ariana Tikao and Catherine Bisley attack the colonial-era cliché of the ‘dusky maiden’ by revealing Maori women―surprise, surprise―to be powerful and courageous agents. The exhibition comprises just four walls of images―primarily but not exclusively photographs―accompanied by substantial bilingual wall texts; a central island of vitrines; and two small audiovisual displays of vintage footage. A loop of gentle background sound―a haunting karakia, the lilt of a koauau pongaihu (flute played through the nose), the…


Emissaries, Lisa Reihana’s project for the 2017 Venice Biennale, presents a new, final version of her video in Pursuit of Venus [infected] (2015–17), bookended by large photographic portraits of two of the characters that appear in it: the shell-masked Chief Mourner of Tahiti, who greets us before we enter the projection space, and satin-draped British naturalist Joseph Banks, who farewells us out the far side. A small collection of historical optical devices is also installed in the anteroom, offering a sort of peepshow teaser of other stills. The venue is one of the former warehouse spaces in the Arsenale, part of a cluster housed there of some of the other 85 national pavilions that sit alongside one half of the curated show in this year’s 57th International Art Exhibition (13…

des helmore

Des Helmore’s recent exhibition Extreme Suction at NKB Gallery took up a deliberately nonsense title, a wry nod to obtuse exhibition names in the art world. He cheerfully recalls the hope it would ‘suck people into the show’ (although any concerns on that front were needless). Helmore is not, it is fair to say, a well-known or prolific painter, but he has a keen following that includes senior art commentators and artists. Extreme Suction was his first solo exhibition since 2010, and an astute selection by gallerist James Brown of works dated from 2013 to 2016. Helmore’s paid employment as an illustrator of insects has earned him great praise in the science world, as ‘a highly talented biological artist’. Close empiricism is necessary for his entomological illustrations; while his paintings…