Maureen Tan: Boatless Horizon

The Auckland Festival of Photography has begun!  21 days at 75 venues, I think one of the best ways to warm up in this wintery weather is to pop into galleries and check out some art 🙂

For more information, please check out their website:

One of the exhibitions that caught my interest was Maureen Tan: Boatless Horizon in the Small Dog Gallery, at Depot Artspace in Devonport.

For Tan’s first solo exhibition, she presents photographs from when she and her family lived in Cuba for two months.  She used this immersive experience to capture the lives of everyday people in one of the remaining Socialist states in the world.  Tan rubs at our perceptions of Cuba – a veneer filtered through cigars, rum, jazz, vintage cars, and baseball.  Her photographs are a definite contrast to the images that are usually disseminated, such as those by Beyoncé and Jay Z during their sojourn last year (wasn’t her hair on that trip all kinds of fantastic?).

These large vibrant vignettes include photographs of deteriorating buildings, stray dogs, washing drying on a line, to name a few.  There is a true sense of grittiness; the dereliction is palpable in Tan’s images, you could almost touch it.  Yet there is also so much vitality in spite of everything.  This is especially seen in the images on the slideshow, for instance, the wide smile on the face of a local school boy, and the loving affection expressed by a family that gave Tan’s daughter a pair of shoes.  It is interesting that Tan was told off for taking photos inside a scarce looking ration shop, but she was able to capture the neglect and erosion of the buildings and streets outside.  There is that ubiquitous sense of surveillance and an almost need to continue propagating Cuba’s façade.

If I had to choose a favourite work, it would be Abandon (2013).  The striking green classic car looks like a sumptuous Granny Smith apple, still blushing with colour, yet on the verge of decay.  Set against a corrosive looking wall, there is interplay between the various textures.  The state of this abandoned car could be a metaphor for the state of Cuba – abated yet still hopeful.  As of last year, Cuba has relaxed their exit visa restrictions for their citizens, however there are still questions concerning human rights and the economy.  Overall, I was truly struck by Tan’s photographs: insightful and off the beaten path, they offer up snapshots of the everyday lives of Cubans, the pretty and the gritty.

If you are looking for the article in the window of the exhibition, it can be found below:

For more information, please go to the Depot Artspace website:

Maureen Tan: Boatless Horizon runs until Thursday 12th June at Depot Artspace in Devonport.  Whilst you are there, make sure to cast your eye over the other photography exhibitions: Flora Photographica Aotearoa, Brendan Kitto: Night Vision and Jonny Davis: Up the Coast.