In 2006, when reviewing the exhibition Phantasmagoria I wrote, "Nathan's is film of gentle movement - full of tender grace and a painterly beauty. Intimacy becomes motion...and everything feels a/drift in suggestion and association." Little has changed (which is great). Eleven years later Pohio is in Athens and Crete, and Spyglass Field Recordings Vol 4: Sfakia - day for night is the result of what he saw.
The title work is a 46 minute loop that moves right to left across two big screens. Stills from a day spent in the small port town of Sfakia have been spliced into a moving meditation of elegiac detail - fragments of sea, stone, concrete and sky. Visually it is both abstract and panoramic. From cast concrete bollards (of the breakwater) to the natural basalt and splendid effervescence of breaking waves, Pohio's observation of place parades quietly in front of us. At times tonal, painterly and gently manipulated, and at others simple and direct - the rhythm of things is insistent. It was from Sfakia in 1941 that the Allies, including Maori battalions, were rescued off the beach at night. For Pohio "the work pays respect to the people who fought there and the people of Crete who hid our men in their hills for up to a year before getting them safely out."
In filmic terms, the 'day for night' technique lends a crepuscular look to some of the frames in this work, a little like an old western or war film. Yet the feeling is of elegance, the architectonic and respect.
An extract from the video Sfakia - day for night, two files for two monitors can be viewed at: http://www.nathanpohio.com/video/
The black and white stills are (also) subtle, delicate tone and texture studies. They look like silver gelatin prints from the darkrooms of yesteryear, that explore recent architectural detail in urban Athens. Athena Chatzikosta and Athena Misirlou in particular, exude a controlled angularity that is both severe and almost sumptuous.When entering this exhibition however, one is greeted by a pair of large photographs printed on vinyl and pressed directly to the wall. Seen together for the first time, these two works Pohio exhibited in Documenta 14 (in Athens and Kassel respectively) have been specially re-worked for the front gallery. It is a powerful welcome home.
Taken on the same occasion on the same day, the works document a meeting of Maori and Pakeha - men from Ngai Tuahuriri on horseback and in korowai, come to Tuahiwi to meet Lord and Lady Plunkett in their Scottish-built Argyll. One of the photographs is from The Canterbury Times in 1905. They provide some context for the moving image work in the gallery behind, as both projects describe cross-cultural historical moments, where individuals came to honour a greater good. By its very nature, photography evokes complexities of time and memory. Nathan Pohio inspires thought both historically and contemporaneously about documents of record, about what is known and what is not. And about what is yet to be seen.
Press release courtesy Jonathan Smart Gallery.