Wai explores the response of four artists to the complex environmental and cultural issues around the state of water in New Zealand via photography, photographic collage, moving image and sculpture.
This exhibition draws from a larger exhibition of 13 artists curated by Ashburton Art Galley to tour New Zealand, which includes these four artists. The Ashburton water project began with a research trip for the artists to examine water issues across the central South Island.
Project co-ordinator Wellington artist Bruce Foster says the trip offered vistas of immense beauty and powerful iconic impact, but also led to a sobering awareness of the vexed and potentially catastrophic situation currently facing the country's waterways. "Engaging with local people, iwi, conservationists and others during the journey, we were brought to a new awareness of the contested politics underlying the demands for freshwater use and allocation, as well as a renewed appreciation for wairua - the spirit of fresh water."
Bruce Foster's photographs and video capture the tension between surface beauty and underlying toxicity, between idealised notions of clean and green and the realities of environmental degradation. Foster, who is a graduate of the Elam School of Fine Arts at Auckland University, has a lifelong interest in the environment. Since the 1980s he has exhibited works creating meditations on the dialogue between the natural and man-made environments.
Brett Graham, better known as one of the country's leading sculptors, here employs video to examine contentious and complex issues of environmental management related to irrigation and effluent spreading. As with his sculpture, form is minimalist and ideas abstracted. The title, Plus and Minus, is a homage to a work by Mona Hatoum, where creation and erasure are in constant flux.*
Grounded in a Maori world-view, Dr Graham's practice explores issue of power relations. His work has been included in exhibitions all over the world. Highlights include the Venice Biennale 2007, the Sydney Biennale 2006 and 2010 and the 2013 survey of international indigenous art at the National Gallery of Canada.
Peter Trevelyan has produced a signature pencil lead sculpture, Flow 3, which in its audacious precariousness speaks directly to the subject of water. Drawing and sculpture are entwined in his practice with three-dimensional works 'drawn' in fine pencil lead, paper, plastic or other media. An investigation of the role of drawing is at the heart of his work. Trevelyan has a PhD from Massey University, Wellington and has exhibited extensively over the past 20 years with a recent highlight the inclusion of a major work in the 2018-19 Islamic Arts Festival in Shardijah.
Kate Woods employs found images of traditional and frequently iconic landscapes and disrupts them by re-photographing and inserting her own geometric constructions to question representations of the real and suggest portals to alternatives. In the works here, she has taken paintings and photographs of distinctive South Island rivers, found in the Te Papa archives, as her starting point. Wellington based, Woods is a graduate of the Elam School of Fine Arts and has been exhibiting regularly since 2002.
* Brett Graham acknowledges Stu Muir for the use of his effluent spreader and inspiration and Dan Mace of Remote design direction creation for sound and editing.
Press release courtesy Bartley & Company Art.