I've always wondered whether our improvements to nature (to that which surrounds us) are inherently doomed to fail. Whether nature will inevitably fight back (time honoured efforts of pomanders aside). Whether the stresses involved in such improvement are so fraught, that by their very nature, many projects are simply self-defeating. Zina Swanson may be thinking along similar lines in her new exhibition, Strange Pomander.
The window is the leitmotif of this show. Compositionally, it organises several of the paintings present – framing the view as painting is known to do. However, motif here is steered towards metaphor. Upon layers of gesso and via carefully built-up lines, Zina's whitened windows capture a variety of scenarios. One offers the artist's self-portrait as a tree, another captures a window behaving as a vase, one literally traps a hapless garden kneeler, and still another contains highly manicured lawn turned wave-like and about to overflow. Finally, a window boasting safety glass diligently acts as bracelet for a slightly strange stick.
What then can be said about the sculpture Strange Pomander, where window is wondrously overrun and infested by cloves, or the small painting Pine Eyes, where window is now tightly knotted within the trunk of a tree? Nature really has had its way – a little like the return of birds in post-quake and lockdown Christchurch. But as Swanson has pointed out in almost twenty years of making and reflection – this really does depend on each and everyone's point of view.
Press release courtesy Jonathan Smart Gallery.