Review

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:

http://www.tsbbankwallaceartscentre.org.nz/exhibitions/tanya-ruka-te-kore-te-ao-the-intrinsic-light-within-nothingness/

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!

https://temiringablog.wordpress.com/

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:

http://www.artsdiary.co.nz/bt54/1475/1.html

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

M.

˟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, http://www.tsbbankwallaceartscentre.org.nz/exhibitions/tanya-ruka-te-kore-te-ao-the-intrinsic-light-within-nothingness/

 

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Review

Things Beyond Our Control | Suji Park, Cornelia Parker, Jun Yang

I have always been intrigued by memories – how items can spark varying associations for different people, some new connections and others from ions ago.  The human mind is a wondrous and complex thing, and this is what drew me to Things Beyond Our Control at ST PAUL St Gallery.  Curated by Charlotte Huddleston, it features Auckland-based artist Suji Park, and international artists Cornelia Parker and Jun Yang.

Upon entering the gallery, you navigate your way through what feels like concrete ruins.  This sparse open space allows you to reflect on mnemonic clues to unearth what has occurred.  Kind of like discovering an abandoned house in an episode of The Walking Dead 😀

Here is the artsdiary link to some images of the exhibition:

http://www.artsdiary.co.nz/bt48/1344/5.html

The first work you encounter is by Suji Park.  It stands as a solitary signpost, beckoning you into the space.  This artwork seems like it grew straight out of the ground, with its aberrations, protrusions, and trunk like plinth.  With the barest splashes of pastel hues, Park’s sculpture is organic with a quirky charm – I am not a hundred percent sure what it is, but that may be her intention 😛  All I know is that it has a curious allure; it is both weird and wonderful, and highlights her palpable attention to surface.

At the opposite side of the gallery, Park’s other works are more geometric when compared to her first sculpture.  The rectangular and square blocks are all a scatter, like remaining puzzle pieces, each a potential memory trigger.  The title BUK 330-399 is the name of the suburb in Seoul, Korea, where she used to live.  Park has formed aspects of her home from her own recollections; the house has since fallen into dilapidation.

Her works are not flawless and standardised – their handmade quality is evident in their varying sizes and roughened exteriors.  The imprecision of these sculptures can be likened to the way that a person’s memories are not exact.  Things are never quite as you remember them, and sometimes they are better or worse.  Nevertheless, I think the creative process is important: a way for Park to engage in nostalgia, and for the viewer to take a sepia-toned trip down memory lane as well.

Now let’s tackle the huge tent in the middle of the room.  Transitional Object II by British artist Cornelia Parker is an imposing work.  Suspended, waiting, her installation is crafted from black safety nets and tethered to the ground by small bags filled with lead shot.  The title references paediatrician and psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott, who stated that a transitional object is a security or comfort blanket used by children as a substitute for the maternal presence.[1]

Such netting has connotations with the armed forces and hunting, something that is used to ensnare or conceal, yet it also resembles a safety net.  Furthermore, the title indicates protection – tents function as shelter, but where are the doors on this?  And the visible gaps in the weave provide little refuge or privacy.  Hence Parker’s work has many contradictions, and I feel there is this constant, foreboding tension as to whether it will fall or swoop. 

This installation elicits a sense of anxiety and apprehension.  The netting looks like a spider’s web, which brought to mind The Cure’s ‘Lullaby’ (how great is that song!) and Admiral Ackbar alarm bells were ringing in my head.  Yet her work also incited other associations as well: funny, wistful thoughts of forts my siblings and I used to craft from chairs, sheets and pegs; flashbacks to school camps where tents would collapse in stormy turbulent weather.  The discernible suspense created from not knowing, makes Parker’s installation all the more captivating.

Lastly Jun Yang’s compelling video work, A Short-Story on Forgetting and Remembering follows a male protagonist as he nocturnally roams a cityscape marked by stretches of never-ending neon.  The artist is our narrator (he hired an actor for the protagonist) and he relays his thoughts on memories, identity and displacement, as he was born in China, grew up in Vienna, and currently divides his time between three cities.  This city is never named, yet its landmarks and the closing credits reveal it to be Taipei – though I feel that the sense of dislocation, both personal and cultural, is archetypal of many immigrant stories and any big city.

Yang describes how as a child, his classmates would often spend time with their grandparents, yet his lived further away so he would only see them occasionally.  His grandparents gave him a gold Parker pen, which he prized – he now had something that all the other children did, and he suitably ‘wrapped reality to the image he needed’.[2]  This work is bookended by references to Blade Runner (1982): Yang opens with a description of implanted memory, and concludes with the protagonist flicking past the film on TV. 

This notion applies to Taipei as a city, whose history is constantly being rewritten and reconstructed over its urban landscape.  Its identity has been punctuated by numerous events, such as the retreat of the Kuomintang Army who brought Chinese national treasures with them, and altered Taiwan’s cultural heritage from 400 years to 5,000 in an instant.  Yang ends poignantly with a metaphor of overlapping real wood with a veneer, and if the surface fulfils a need and ‘the necessities of that moment, perhaps that is enough’.[3]  Thus the barrier between the real and the imagined is muddled, it becomes less significant, and we treasure the memories even if they fade beyond our control.

Wow that was really long, I’m sorry about that!  I really wanted to do justice to each of the works in this thought-provoking exhibition.  Things Beyond Our Control is on until Friday 21st March 2014 at ST PAUL St Gallery, St Paul Street. 

I also found this Radio New Zealand interview with Cornelia Parker from March 2010 (she collaborated on a work with Tilda Swinton where Tilda slept in a display case):

http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/2231986

Thanks for visiting and reading to the end!

M.


[1] Charlotte Huddleston, ‘Things Beyond Our Control, Suji Park / Cornelia Parker / Jun Yang,’ ST PAUL St Gallery, accessed February 19, 2014, https://stpaulst.aut.ac.nz/publications/articles/things-beyond-our-control

[2] Jun Yang from the screenplay for A Short-Story on Forgetting and Remembering, 2007, quoted in Charlotte Huddleston, ‘Things Beyond Our Control, Suji Park / Cornelia Parker / Jun Yang,’ ST PAUL St Gallery, accessed February 19, 2014, https://stpaulst.aut.ac.nz/publications/articles/things-beyond-our-control

[3] Ibid.

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Review

Absence is all that is left behind by Robert George

One of the things I love about art is how it constantly surprises me.  In particular, when I stumble upon an exhibition that catches my attention, more so than one I have seen advertised and planned to see.  This was indeed the case when I wandered into Robert George’s exhibition curated by Kathryn Tsui, at Corban Estate Arts Centre in Henderson.

Warning: I’m going to make a reference to the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) particularly Season 6.  If you haven’t seen this season or the show at that (you should) it’s probably best to skip that paragraph until you watch it 😛

Displayed in a darkened room, George’s exhibition is bipartite: two videos run in succession.  They are projected onto white sheets suspended in the middle of the room, hung at a right angle to each other to form a corner.  The video featured on the left is the titular Absence is all that is left behind (2013, digital video and sound, 10 min.) and on the right is The Embrace of Night (Go To Sleep) (2013, digital video and sound, 10 min.)

Absence reveals itself slowly in a singular continuous shot.  A meditative chime rings out as if calling for silence.  Everything is bright white, burning the screen up like hot magnesium.  As your eyes adjust, a figure begins to just distinguish itself by the barest outlines.  The chime reverberates at regular intervals often timed with the figure’s graceful gestures.  She begins with her hands clasped almost in prayer; at other times her arms are outstretched, inviting you like a sensuous, otherworldly siren.  She ceases with arms crossed over her chest, content to drift into a tranquil slumber.

There is a sense of serenity and peace that emanates from this video.  Beautiful, enthralling, and introspective, it raises questions as to whether this is the afterlife or simply a dream.  And if so, is this George’s vision of the afterlife or a snippet from his dreams?  I think he presents a fairly neutral space void of detail, which allows the viewer to infer as they choose and develop their own narrative.

[Buffy spoiler alert in the paragraph below]

Watching this awoke a number of memories and thoughts.  I felt that the work was like a visualisation of Buffy’s description of Heaven after her resurrection in season 6 – somewhere warm, where she was at peace and nothing had form.  Additionally, George’s video is reminiscent of Ho Tzu Nyen’s The Cloud of Unknowing (2011) that was recently exhibited at the 5th Auckland Triennial.  In particular, the colour white bridged the link, which not only brings about associations of purity and innocence, but also mourning and funerals, as it is understood in Asian cultures.

The other work is similar in its visual and sound dynamic, and treatment of notions such as mortality and consciousness.  I found Embrace to be a much darker work: it looks as if it is set underwater with multiple figures (mermaids?) one which appears to be performing a dance; others look as if they are swimming… or perhaps drowning.  The video is quite jarring, a chop and change of a multitude of scenes.  Some are sped up, some are slowed, and others are repeated, reversed or mirrored.  This unsettled sensation is furthered by aggressive, clamouring sounds.  And like Absence, the experience differs depending on the viewer and what they want to see.

This work made me think of the space halfway between life and death.  The submerged aspect of Embrace I found especially haunting and ominous, at times evocative of Inhale | Exhale (2012) by Vincent Ward.  The sounds are rampageous and scratchy like amps gone bad, or that time I went Spookers (I’ve only been once, which was probably enough for me 😯 ).

Yet you cannot help but watch it, as there is a certain tragic beauty to the video.  It requires a number of viewings to absorb the fragmented imagery, each viewing offering up something you hadn’t seen the previous time.  I found the expressions of the figures greatly contrasted the shadowy ocean depths, and like the figure in Absence, they appear animated and almost at ease.  But perhaps that is further evidence that what we are seeing isn’t quite real.

By projecting onto near translucent sheets, it makes the videos seem dreamlike and hazy, leading you to question what it is that you are seeing.  This translucency is compelling, allowing the works to materialise on the walls behind the sheets, generating a ghostly spectral effect.  The use of sheets could also be a reference to beds and sleep, where the unconscious mind can be unleashed.  Even afterwards when I left the room, the imprints of the videos remained in my mind like phantoms.  Though I am curious about how my memories of George’s work will alter over time.

Have you heard of artsdiary? It is a great website filled with photos of local exhibitions.  The link below is of an image of George’s videos:

http://www.artsdiary.co.nz/bt43/1225/2.html

Robert George’s exhibition at Corban Estate Arts Centre, Henderson, is until Sunday the 1st December 2013.  Guest performance artist Terry Faleono will be providing a live performance this Saturday 9th November from 11am – 1pm, be sure to check it out!

M.

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Musings on Art

Welcome, and hands together: Goldie meets Kihara

Welcome to my blog!

This is essentially a space to just write about art: artworks I am fascinated by, and local exhibitions (currently around Auckland, New Zealand) that have caught my interest.  I hope to entertain and inform, and generate a love of art within you.  So thank you for visiting, and for reading my first post ever 🙂

I have recently become addicted to the Arctic Monkeys’ AM; an absolutely brilliant album and a definite change in sound when compared to their debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not.  Their first track ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ is particularly addictive and eargasmic (the truth: I am listening to it right now).

A lovely friend mentioned an article on Buzzfeed that described how the intro to the above song was created with digitally enhanced clapping hands and slapping knees (This post will relate back to art, I swear).  This fun fact fascinated me, and I started thinking about the various hands I had seen in art, and two artists who immediately came to mind, were Charles F. Goldie and Shigeyuki Kihara.

You can read the Buzzfeed article here:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/danmartin/19-reasons-the-arctic-monkeys-album-will-blow-your-mind

Reflecting on hands, I immediately thought of  Goldie’s painting, Memories, Ena Te Papatahi, a Chieftainess of the Ngāpuhi Tribe (1906, oil on canvas, 127 x 101.6 cm, Auckland Art Gallery).  Possibly New Zealand’s most famous portraitist, Charles F. Goldie (1870-1947) was renowned for his paintings of Māori figures.  His works are exceptional in their attention to detail and intense realism, yet simultaneously intriguing in that they are greatly staged, questioning their verisimilitude.

The wonderful hands in Memories are front and centre when you stand before this painting, capturing your attention.  Beautifully rendered, Ena’s hands are static but expressive, nearly with a life of their own.  I often wonder what kind of person Ena was, and what stories could be told from such hands.  There is a perpetual awareness that Goldie staged such scenes, particularly in the wistful, contemplative looks evident in many of his portraits, and his belief that he was capturing a dying and noble race.  Nevertheless, Goldie’s style is utterly meticulous, with the veins and muscles of the hands minutely lined, conveying the passage of time and filled with the memories of a life lived.

If you would like to see Ena, follow this link:

http://www.aucklandartgallery.com/the-collection/browse-artwork/1907/memories-ena-te-papatahi,-a-chieftainess-of-the-ngapuhi-tribe

Hands play an expressive and dynamic role in the work, Siva in motion (2012, digital performance video, 8 min. 44 sec.) by Shigeyuki Kihara.  Wearing a black Victorian mourning dress, Kihara evokes the motions of the tsunami that devastated American Samoa, Samoa and Tonga in September of 2009.  Her silent performance is inspired by taualuga, a Samoan dance, and has been filmed in an overlapping stop motion manner that creates a spectral shadowing effect for each gesture.

I found this trailing trace of hands to be exquisite and hypnotising, reminiscent of an ocean’s rolling waves.  Some of her gestures are repetitive, and there is a rhythm of ascension and decline, similar to the surges of the sea.  Kihara also makes references to Victorian era chronophotographers, Étienne-Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge with her stop motion effects, as well as the sprawling colonialism of that period, by donning a Victorian dress.  This richly layered work conveys the crossing of time and cultures, all in the entrancing and delicate motions of the hands.

Siva in motion was exhibited in the Home Akl exhibition in 2012, yet a video of the making can be found below:

http://vimeo.com/channels/shigeyuki/50271507

I hope you enjoyed this quick survey of just a few of the great hands portrayed in art – from the painterly to the dynamic.

Thanks for visiting!

M.

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