Auckland Lowdown: Must-See Exhibitions
Exhibition view: Zac Langdon-Pole, Porous World, Michael Lett, Auckland (15 October–10 December 2022). Courtesy the artist and Michael Lett. Photo: Sam Hartnett.
Aotearoa Art Fair returns to Auckland's waterfront from 16 to 20 November. Gathering at The Cloud will be 41 galleries from New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, and Rarotonga, along with several satellite projects showcasing emerging artists and artist-run spaces.
Ocula Magazine shares our must-see exhibitions across the city of sails, from the heart of downtown to Tāmaki Makaurau's art mile along Karangahape Road, and beyond.
Just off the Karangahape Road art mile is a puzzling solo show by Auckland-based artist Zac Langdon-Pole, presented at Michael Lett's project space at 3 East Street.
Porous World revolves around enigmatic uses for found, constructed, and hybridised objects and images—an ongoing material approach of the BMW Art Journey Award-winning artist.
Central to the exhibition are four large-scale jigsaw puzzle works, suitably scaled for the high ceilings of the renovated historic Methodist Mission Hall. Together forming The Dog God Cycle (2022), the puzzles blend images of 19th-century Romantic landscape paintings with pictures taken by NASA's space telescopes.
Comprising over 128,000 individual jigsaw pieces, The Dog God Cycle playfully links colonial-era vistas and extraterrestrial imaging with conceptions of 'the new world', contemplating history, nature, and the cosmos.
Beyond this central nave, Porous World features some of Langdon-Pole's sculptures. These include unusual assemblages of artefacts, such as typewriters and ancient arrowheads in A Quiver of Names (2022), or meteorite dust, axe heads, antique cases and a Catholic idolatry box in Concatenations (2022).
In the 1970s, Dame Robin White (Ngāti Awa, Pākehā) began developing paintings and prints of iconic New Zealand landscapes, buildings, and portraits of herself and friends. Her images were characterised by unmodulated expanses of colour, rhythmic modelling of forms, and bold outlines.
Many of these early works are currently on view in a major retrospective spanning more than half a century, jointly organised by Auckland Art Gallery and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa.
Highlights include This is me at Kaitangata (1979), a confident self-portrait of the artist in her early thirties. Also showing are White's large-scale tapa works, produced in collaboration with Pacific artists including Ruha and Ebonie Fifita (Tonga), and Tamari Cabeikanacea (Fiji), among others.
In Something is happening here (2017), the monumental bark cloth painting that lends the exhibition its title, White achieves a sense of contemplative stillness in her depiction of an interior space rich with intricate ochre patterns.
Julia Morison: In hindsight
Trish Clark Gallery, 142 Great North Road
8 October–17 December 2022
Situated in Grey Lynn's Putiki Street art precinct is Trish Clark Gallery, presenting In hindsight: a survey exhibition of New Zealand art veteran Julia Morison.
Morison is an Arts Foundation Laureate and Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit who emerged around the 1980s. Her multifaceted works eschew categorisation, and draw influences from Euclidean geometry, constructivism, alchemy, and the Jewish Kabbalah tradition. Materials that have made their way into Morison's works over the decades include blood, hair, gold, silver, mercury, lead, clay, beeswax, ash, and excrement.
In hindsight spans over 40 years of Morison's practice and includes never-before-seen specimens. Oddities include the artist's surreal 'Head[case]' ceramic busts (2014–ongoing) and the looming 'Gargantua's Petticoat' paintings (2006). Four sculptures made with silt and objects recovered in the aftermath of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake also feature in the show.
Becky Richards: Wonderlump
Objectspace, 13 Rose Road
10 September–20 November 2022
Each of Becky Richards' ceramic objects exist as an individual being, emanating its own sense of life and that of the artist with her tactile approach. Her band of bulbous creatures at Objectspace are no different, this time recalling inanimate forms from the natural world.
In works like Crystal Mountain (2021–2022), the materiality of the earthenware clay support is juxtaposed and heightened against shards of broken glass, clustered upon the foothills of each blue peak. The 'crystals', in this case, are repurposed from a broken windscreen—demonstrating the artist's incorporation of familiar, everyday objects into these otherworldly forms.
Simultaneously organic and highly embellished, Richards' large-scale ceramic bodies elicit a sense of lighthearted wonder at the fruits of nature. Congregated on stools and custom supports, the works are at once autonomous beings, and personal records of the artist's craft.
Opened in early 2022, Season gallery in downtown Commercial Bay has already established a strong reputation with its locally-focused programme promoting some of Aotearoa's most exciting Indigenous artists. Manu Aute: Rere Runga Hau, their current exhibition with Nikau Hindin (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi), sees the presentation of a series of kites made from aute (Māori bark cloth made from paper mulberry) in collaboration with Rongomai Grbic-Hoskins (Ngāpuhi, Te Rarawa, Ngātiwai).
Manu Aute signals a development in Hindin's treatment of aute. She has worked with the material for close to a decade, building an intimate sensitivity to the time and labour-intensive processes required to make the aute from plant to cloth.
Hindin's new show sees the aute translated into three-dimensional kite forms, painted delicately in geometric patterns with natural earth pigments. The artist states, 'Kites symbolise joy and leisure time but can also bring foreboding warnings. I think the duality of these signs reflects the double-edged needs of our current social climate.'
Further afield in Kingsland is PHOTO OP., a project space for contemporary lens-based art established by artist and curator Emil McAvoy. Opened in June this year, the space is currently host to A Lovers' Herbal, a solo exhibition by photographer Ann Shelton.
Shelton presents recent photographs of floral and herbal arrangements from the series, 'jane says' (2015–ongoing). The series revolves around plants that have historically been used in herbal medicine, especially in relation to women's health—think contraception, menstruation, and abortion. Stylistically, Shelton's arrangements allude to Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging.
The history of plants and their relationship with human activity has long interested Shelton, who likened her photographic gardens to her own 'small physical garden' in a conversation with Ocula Magazine in 2017.