Energies and Apparitions
This essay was written by curator Anna Davis for the Energies: Haines & Hinterding exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia in 2015.
The art of David Haines and Joyce Hinterding is characterised by its openness to the unseen forces that permeate human experience. Very low frequency (VLF) radio waves, television signals, paranormal events, satellite transmissions and psychic energies are all manifest within their work, which aims to summon these hidden realms and bring them to our senses. Using experimental and traditional media, they engage in an artistic dialogue with science, intersecting with areas such as electronics, solar research, geology, olfactory chemistry and high-energy physics. Aesthetic and metaphysical concerns are equally vital to their practice, which also traverses speculative and esoteric domains such as Reichian orgone energy and Kirlian ‘spirit’ photography.
Beyond The Fields We Know
In the canons of received taste, the unicorn figurine doesn’t rank terribly highly beyond kitsch. Sitting in your hand, it’s cutesy, twee, trivial and quaint (though a piece of master-worked Venetian glass from Murano is a pricey and collectable item).
In drawing attention to the theatre of personal grooming, Bad Hair Day brings together portraiture and caricature with a variety of less readily classifiable works of art. The densely packed selection spans a vast historical range. And in putting bowl cuts and bushy beards alongside wayward wigs and whiskers, it highlights the sometimes comical aspects of hair, especially when styles are extreme. If wry intent is discernible throughout the exhibition, however, we shouldn’t let this fool us: hair is a topic that easily turns serious.
The Camera as a Place of Potential
To Māori, the colour black represents Te Korekore – the realm of potential being, energy, the void, and nothingness. The notion of potential and the presence of women are what I see when I peek at Fiona Pardington’s 1997 work Moko. And I say peek deliberately, because I am quite mindful of this work – it is downright spooky. Moko is a photographic rendering of a seeping water stain upon the blackboard in Pardington’s studio, taken while she was the recipient of the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship in Dunedin in 1997.
Reading the Swell
The art of the sea has always been the art of vastness—without edges and with potential for infinite extension. It is this immensity that has invaded the Reading the Swell exhibition; finding its way through the automatic doors when no one is looking and quietly expanding the walls. Like sailors, artists have laid soundings in this uncharted vastness. Reading the Swell is a small and pointed selection of those soundings that see fit to make sense of the sea.
Finding Barry Cleavin
Exploring and documenting the contents of Barry Cleavin’s archive in the Robert and Barbara Stewart Library and Archives was both a novel and an invaluable experience for me.
Colin McCahon: Five Years in Christchurch, 1948–53
Prior to moving to Christchurch in March 1948, Colin McCahon and his family spent a little over a year living in Muritai Street, Tahunanui, on the outskirts of Nelson city. It was his most productive period as a painter to date – a phase dominated by figurative paintings with some landscapes. The products of this prolific period were brought together in his first major one-person show, at Wellington Public Library in February 1948, organised by his Dunedin friend, Ron O’Reilly. An exhibition of forty-two works made between 1939 to 1948, more than half produced in 1947, it consisted of roughly equal numbers of landscapes (including Otago Peninsula and Maitai Valley), biblical paintings (King of the Jews, Crucifixion according to St Mark ), and non-biblical figurative works (A candle in a dark room, The Family). Although it was reviewed favourably in The Listener by J.C. Beaglehole, the subsequent letters column ran hot with controversy, and it brought McCahon to national attention.
To Colin McCahon
James K. Baxter’s 1952 poem ‘To Colin McCahon’ is an important marker in the long and sometimes tempestuous artistic relationship the two men shared. On an immediate level, the poem is a response to McCahon’s painting There is only one direction (1952), which he presented to Jim and Jacquie Baxter to mark the birth of their daughter Hilary after they had named McCahon her godfather.
I go into the Gallery. Haven’t been there in a while. Building closed. It was open to begin with. Civil Defence HQ in the weeks following the shock that laid the city low and who knew glass could be so strong, so resilient? Then the Gallery closed. It was cordoned off, behind wire netting. Something was going on in there. Someone said something had cracked in the basement. Someone said they needed to insert a layer of bouncy forgiving rubber beneath glass and concrete, ready for any future slapdown.