Michael Hight's 'black paintings' offer a contemporary and distinctly local take on wunderkammern or cabinets of curiosities, those almost magical repositories for all manner of wondrous and unusual objects popularised in sixteenth-century Europe. Hight defines the composition of these works by employing a set of shelving units, with each compartment containing an object; musical instruments, porcelain figures, skeletons, obscure tools, inkwells, antique toys, as well as fragments of archetypal New Zealand landscapes. Nestled inside some of these shelves are sections of beehives – colourful hive bodies stacked one upon the other – displaced from another of Hight’s ongoing and distinctly familiar painting series, in which beehives are set against the backdrop of spectacular rural and mountain scenes. Hight’s paintings offer an intriguing tableaux manifested from the artist’s vast collection of objects and curiosities, alongside his own memories and experiences of Aotearoa and drawing upon national histories, and geographies. These works are heavy with significance, yet their origin and meaning remain invitingly mysterious.
Press release courtesy Page Galleries.