Iain Cheesman: Visionary Moments

Iain Cheesman is an artist who intrigues me.  His works traverse sculpture, assemblage, painting and installation, and what I immediately enjoy about them is their tactile nature and irreverent humour.  Frequently there are deeper references or subtext in his art, some of which are detectable, whilst others are more cryptic and require greater contemplation.

Cheesman has been quite prodigious over the past few years, exhibiting nationally at Corban Estate Arts Centre, The Young Wellington, The Vivian in Matakana, etc. and what is evident is his constant exploration of various materials.  I am a great fan of his text works and most I have encountered tend to be sculptural pieces made from PVC.  Here, in this amusing exhibition Visionary Moments, Cheesman has again included text but instead the words are created by holes punched into calfskins.

Blanketing an entire wall of the Little Gallery at the Pah Homestead, each calfskin features a word broken down into syllables.  After a fair bit of sounding out the words, I realised each calfskin was perforated with the name of an art movement.  Some of these syllables have been turned into homonyms e.g. Futurist = FEW / CHUR / WRIST, Surrealism = SIR / REAL / IS / HIM, and thus changing how they are read.  Cheesman drolly toys with language in these artworks, how it has evolved and been re-shaped, as the syllables are almost rendered unfamiliar and foreign.  I laughed at how long it took me to comprehend what I was reading aloud 😛

This exhibition is a study in semiotics, testing how people interpret and derive meaning.  The syllables can be viewed as individual words or part of a whole, and invite different narratives and understanding.  The title Visionary Moments is a play on words: these works trifle with our vision, as the punched holes appear and disappear before our eyes and cast marvellous shadows on the back wall.  Furthermore, such art movements (mostly modern and occurring in the 20th and 21st Centuries) would have been considered ‘visionary’ in their time.

Cheesman’s works can be seen as declarative emblems of identification and allegiance, yet I also see them as chapters in a book on art history.  Art movements have loosely defined start and end dates, or are often defined after the fact, grouping artists who are working at the same time or towards a common goal.  For instance, Post-Impressionism included artists Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Georges Seurat, who each had distinct styles and techniques yet were all reacting to Impressionism.

Hence, these calfskins emphasise the multitude of ‘visionary’ influences that artists can draw upon.  By changing how we read and interpret language, he changes how we can interpret their art and the influence of these –isms.  They offer up the prospect of these art movements being rewritten and understood differently by individuals, and the textured amorphic sculptures by the window are like stand-ins for viewers absorbing all before them.  Playful, witty, and loaded with curious moments, this exhibition is a must see!

Iain Cheesman will be giving an artist talk on Saturday 23rd May at 12:30pm.  Visionary Moments is on until Sunday 7th June 2015 at the Little Gallery, Pah Homestead, in Hillsborough.

For more information on the artist and this exhibition, please check out the following links:



Te Kore / Te Ao (the Intrinsic Light within Nothingness) by Tanya Ruka

I first encountered Tanya Ruka’s work in the winter of last year, when she had an amazing exhibition titled Whiriwhiri-ā-Rōpū at Corban Estate Arts Centre, Henderson (click on the title for an artsdiary image of the exhibition).  I wanted to write about her work then, yet that was an era pre-blog, and so I’m making up for lost time now 🙂

Te Kore / Te Ao (the Intrinsic Light within Nothingness) explores our landscape through a cosmological lens.  Ruka (Ngapuhi and Waitaha) draws upon Māori cosmology for the title of the exhibition: Te Kore was the state before sound, which was followed by Te Ao the world of light.  The literal translation of Te Kore is ‘the nothing’ yet it is believed to contain the energy of potential, and she finds inspiration from ‘this in between state of liminal space.’[1]  Thus, through utilising light and patterns, specifically those found in Māori weaving and carving, Ruka delves into this space of limitless potential.

For information on the works and a few images, please click on the link below:

The titular work (2013, digital HD manipulation) consists of two projections, side by side, both filled with small circles in a 3 x 4 formation.  Each of these spellbinding circles contains individual images based on Ruka’s drawings over the last few years.  Looped pulsating videos of grass, buildings and the ocean become distinguishable over time, as these circles appear, disappear and change colour, like a graceful dance.  Similarly the background modulates its hue; at one point one projection is white, and the other black – light and darkness, life and death, an infinite cycle. There are a number of images and patterns that occur in this video; endless combinations are presented, and there is something universal about these boundless possibilities.  It made me think about how whole planets and galaxies can differ, and how no human on our entire planet is exactly the same.

I was also drawn to Ruka’s wonderful video Rangaranga (2013, digital HD manipulation) by its strong geometrics and mirrored imagery that are evident in Māori weaving.  The looping of this work is alluring and hypnotic, like weaving at warp speed, and at times it resembles a never-ending travelator.  It took me a while to realise (okay, I read the wall label 😛 ) that it was actually images of grass and the sky, flickering and rustling in a gusty wind. Specifically this patch is the paepae, the area in front of her family marae that is like a threshold.  It is where you can have a dialogue with others and seek wisdom from your ancestors, effectively a space in between, where understanding and creativity can foster.  I like that Ruka’s works seem both otherworldly and temporal, and I am fascinated by how they point to the passage of time, and how creation is repetitive yet different.

Te Kore / Te Ao (the Intrinsic Light within Nothingness) is in the Audio Visual Room at the Pah Homestead, Hillsborough until Sunday 15th June 2014.

For more info on Ruka, check out her blog!

And she will be in a group exhibition coming up at Northart Gallery, Northcote, called Te Toi Hou – Contemporary Maori Art at the end of this month.  Click on the link for more photos:

I hope you are all keeping warm this winter!  Or cool this summer for you Northern Hemispherers 🙂


˟Update 02.02.17: Some of the links on this post were old, I have updated it with Ruka’s new blog and photos from Artsdiary.

[1] ‘Tanya Ruka: Te Kore / Te Ao (the Intrinsic Light within Nothingness),’ TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, accessed May 23, 2014,