Mark Braunias's new show, In Search of the Saccharine Underground, is typically generous and exuberant – biggish canvas and paperworks alongside smaller paintings, blown glass works and quilted fabric objects. It is also accompanied by a 5 page (tongue-in-cheek) manifesto penned by the artist. Samples from that text are quoted below:
"Saccharine Underground was a term coined in rock music criticism during the late 1960's. It was a description applied to a specific brand of Pop music, that despite its 'cheesy' saccharine production values, managed to convey an emotional or psychological depth. The Saccharine Underground provided a surprising gravitas.
We are the Saccharine Underground AND WE DONT CARE. Our manifesto seeks to question the validity of a perceived kitchen sink melancholy/melodramatic, a contrived profundity surrounding much of New Zealand's historical art-making. We challenge this essentially cultivated angst as driven more by fashionable concepts borrowed offshore than any internal originality...
The Saccharines contend that the narrative history of modern visual art in New Zealand is steeped in an aesthetic of the corniest and romanticised version of European gothic... We challenge the 'reading' of the symbol versus the pictorial. Everyone can visually read a symbol. The symbol carries the narrative. The meaning. But does it? In New Zealand art we are excellent at reading narrative. The story is King... But what about the design aspects that actually make the symbol? All the picture-making elements that define a particular shape or surface? For in visual art terms, this is often where the actual content resides. The form is just, as if not more than relevant in containing any sense of profundity beyond the symbol depicted. A well-defined contour can be a serious statement... The Saccharines believe in the principle that the brighter the light, the darker the shadow. That's where the real underground exists...
The Saccharines prefer that mysterious oscillation between the bland pinks and baby blues of an elephant holding a string of balloons by its trunk. We put faith in a tight analytical design edge that we believe stretches all the way back to the tomb paintings in ancient Egypt. It's not what you say after all, but HOW you say it..."
A copy of the manifesto is available from the gallery.
Press release courtesy Jonathan Smart Gallery.