One of Us Cannot Be Wrong by Sam Mitchell

2014 seems to be an interesting year for Sam Mitchell.  I previously wrote about an exhibition she had at Corban Estate Arts Centre in January, which featured bold larger than life portraits painted in reverse onto transparent Perspex sheets.  Now, nine months later, Mitchell presents One of Us Cannot Be Wrong at Melanie Roger Gallery in Herne Bay that comprises of artworks created during her residency in Invercargill as the William Hodges Fellow.

What demarcates this exhibition from previous ones is her venture into ceramics.  Plates and platters are clothed in detail – it almost seems like an effortlessly natural progression, as her work is highly decorative.  This is especially seen in the re-emergence of the stylised Japanese wave design which she applied to Michael Jackson’s ‘fro in her January show.  She has contrasted this wave design with some lines and circles for added flourish, and the details really pop when seen in person.

You can check out some photos of Mitchell’s ceramics on the Melanie Roger Gallery website:

Though she has changed medium and scale, Mitchell’s artworks are still portraits.  Her plates and platters are exclusively red and blue, and are filled with localised Southern characters expressive of her time in Invercargill.  Some are rather specific, for instance Ernest Rutherford dabbling with atoms and long-time journalist Frederick Walter Gascoyne Miller, whilst others seem more like stereotypes, such as a muscly Young Farmer of the Year and a pert, salacious Miss Invercargill.  To complete the set, she has included some more whimsical pieces, like a cross section of an oyster, a pig’s pork chart, and a bunch of fun skulls.

There is still that great sense of irreverence and wicked humour in Mitchell’s works – everyone’s a bit cheeky or a bit wry, and I particularly like how revelatory her art is.  Her ceramics captures the subtlety of facial expressions or those truthful moments that we don’t always want people to see, with great economy of drawn line (not unlike one of my favourite artists, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec).  The medium and applied detail has a delicacy and intricacy, which is contrasted with her razor wit.  When viewing her ceramics, I couldn’t help but think of the naughty soup bowls in The Birdcage (1996) with late great Robin Williams, Nathan Lane and Gene Hackman.  If you need to refresh your memory watch the video below, and if you haven’t seen the film, do!

What was also captivating about this exhibition was the installation: each work is placed on a wooden chair, like the ones used to fill school halls, and their backs are stamped with the words ‘MEMORIAL HALL’.  Showing a little wear and tear but still sturdy, they definitely added to the playful, retro vibe and made for entertaining viewing and a bit of reminiscing 🙂

One of Us Cannot Be Wrong is on until Saturday 18th October at Melanie Roger Gallery.  Make sure to check it out!

Also for you Wellingtonians, Paula Schaafhausen’s Tagaloas (which were showing at Corbans alongside Mitchell) are currently exhibiting at Enjoy Public Art Gallery on Cuba St.  Do take the opportunity to see the statues/savour their delicious scent.

Please see the link below for more info:



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