Eventual Efflorescence – Kate van der Drift

Hello again,

I hope everyone is wrapped up warm this winter!  But if you are struggling, here is a recipe for Glögg (Swedish Mulled Wine) to help keep snug and toasty 😛  I know I’ve said it before, but I feel like the years are going by faster and faster.  It’s already June, which means that the Auckland Festival of Photography has rolled around!

Gracing Room 2 of Sanderson Contemporary in Newmarket is Eventual Efflorescence, the latest exhibition by photographer Kate van der Drift.  These new works depicts scenes of suburbia: front yards, stormwater drains, brick fences and more, and like previous images in her oeuvre, include vistas of water.  They express van der Drift’s ongoing investigation into place; how our surrounds undergo significant transformation due to human settlement, population growth, and industrial and technological advancements.

Eerily still and somewhat unsettling, her photographs are dichotomous in nature: mundane yet captivating, dreamlike yet real, they are images of nature that are unnaturally beautiful, and I found myself drawn in but equally detached.  The quietness of van der Drift’s works counter the fact that they are images of occupancy – they are about people and how we have modified our landscape to suit our way of living, but are void of a single person.  I found this particularly evident in Stormwater Reserve (2016, Giclée photograph on matte paper, 1350 mm x 915 mm) an elegant suburban panorama beside a mirroring body of water, emptied of people.  Furthermore, in Seychelles Drive (2016, Giclée photograph on matte paper, 850 mm x 850 mm) three perfectly manicured trees sit out front of a residence, an example of our fastidious shaping and control of our surroundings.  I think it is this containment and neatening of nature that lends a sense of artifice to what we are seeing, and makes one wonder what lies beneath.

When initially seeing these photographs, I was at a loss as to where they were taken.  With none of the usual clues (street signs, types of trees, licence plates) it was like a game of GeoGuessr.  The sublime palm in Sorrento Key (2016, Giclée photograph on matte paper, 1110 mm x 1110 mm) suggests somewhere balmy and tropical, like Florida or Vanuatu.  Thus I was surprised upon learning that these were photographs of Papamoa, the largest suburb in Tauranga, with a 16 km stretch of white beach.  It is currently an area of rapid growth and development, the land being irreversibly transformed to keep up with the demand for housing.  There is a universality to van der Drift’s images as they could be photographs of anywhere in the world.  By capturing the banal, she highlights what is missing – how places rich in history and memory are seemingly buried, and make way for new and differing needs and wants.  Her use of water as a motif for metamorphosis is fascinating, and the title of the exhibition points to the inevitability of such flowering and growth.  Though tinged with melancholia, water can also represent renewal and regeneration, and there is hope that the cultures and histories of such places are never really forgotten.

Hauntingly superb, Eventual Efflorescence by Kate van der Drift is at Sanderson Contemporary, Newmarket until 26th June 2016 and is part of the Auckland Festival of Photography.  There are a number of exceptional exhibitions to see, do check them out!

For images of van der Drift’s exhibition, please click on the links below:

And lastly, my blog stats say that I’ve hit 2,000 views – I just wanted to say a big thank you and acknowledge all the visitors.  When I started this blog about two years ago, I wasn’t sure what to expect but it’s been a fun and exciting journey 😀  Even if some of your visits have been accidental, I appreciate your taking the time to read, and I hope you have enjoyed it!

To more to come,



Joe Sheehan’s Screenshots

Months ago, I stumbled upon Joe Sheehan’s work quite by accident, whilst researching another artist.  My attention was caught: cassette tapes, keys, sunnies, Bic pens, all crafted from pounamu (greenstone).  I was intrigued by such quotidian objects forged from a stone of such cultural significance in New Zealand.  I made a mental note to catch an exhibition of his, and surely enough one has come around!

Part of the Auckland Festival of Photography, Screenshots at Tim Melville Gallery features several sublime images.  Sheehan’s photographs are so magnified that they flood the entirety of the frame.  At first glance, I wasn’t immediately convinced that these were images of pounamu.  The colours are so saturated; there is a sharp contrast between light and dark in a number of them; and they appear almost alien and abstract.  His exquisitely carved pounamu ‘slides’ could resemble anything from epic landscapes to an expansive cosmos.

You can view images of the works on the gallery’s website:

What becomes apparent when looking at his photographs is a fascination with light and perception.  I couldn’t help but recall a line from the musical film Gigi (1958) with Leslie Caron, Louis Jourdan and Maurice Chevalier, where Gigi’s aunt states that the best emeralds have an elusive blue flame that darts about in the depths.  I think Sheehan has managed to capture the dazzling fire in these stones – they appear lit from within.

This light lends to the abstraction of these artworks: when I saw Screenshot 9 (2014,Chromira photograph on Fujiflex Crystal Archive, 43 x 43 cm) I thought it could be a photo of a blazing crevasse bordered by an ebony forest.  Similarly with Screenshot 12 (2014,Chromira photograph on Fujiflex Crystal Archive, 43 x 43 cm) it brought to mind Sauron’s eye, and I swear I could see a ghostly Christ-like figure being raptured in its depths.  There are a number of transfixing images that can be perceived in his wonderful works, which you really must see for yourselves!

Sheehan’s work is a refreshing exploration of the commercial, political and cultural issues around pounamu in our contemporary world.  One such issue would be sourcing, as Ngai Tahu were granted control of pounamu in the ‘90s, and he now works with local stones as well as those imported from Canada, Russia and so forth.[1]  It is interesting how Sheehan has crafted items that are often used to record history for posterity, such as pens, cassette tapes, a slideshow projector, and these photographs, in order to reflect on our history and culture.  His works are reflective as they are enticing, as he puts pounamu and our thoughts around it under the microscope.  Sheehan’s progressive shift from sculpting stones to carving ‘slides’ and photographing them, ask us to widen our view on pounamu and its potential in art.

Screenshots runs until Saturday 28th June 2014 at Tim Melville Gallery in Newmarket, do check it out before it ends 🙂

Thanks for stopping by!


[1] Anna-Marie White, ‘The Quick and the Dead: Recent Work by Joe Sheehan,’ Art New Zealand 148 (Summer 2013-14): pp. 74-75.


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.