Friday, March 10, 2006

Art in Wellington

I schlepped around 11 exhibitions yesterday, the kind of marathon I have only tried in foreign cities before . Highlights from visual arts on show in the Wellington region right now include...
  • Rosemary McLeod's dolls at Bowen Gallery. Twenty or so rag dolls all called Eleanor Page and far more glamourous than most rag dolls and far more interesting than most contemporary dolls I've seen. It is a nice development from Ms McLeod's work collecting, curating and writing about women's fabric crafts in early 20th century New Zealand. Each doll is exquisitely detailed with shoes, bags, dresses, coats, hats, jewellery, faces and flowing hair mostly using vintage materials. They cost $1600 dollars each and about half a dozen had red stickers by them.
  • The World From Above photos by Yann Artus-Bertrand at Waitangi Park. I've seen some of these photos before and loved them, especially the bales of cotton that look like hydrangas until you see the man sprawled on one of them and suddenly your sense of scale shifts. It seemed like hundreds of ariel photos were on display in the park, set up ingeniously to survive as a 24 hours/all weather exhibition. It was an overwhelming amount to look at and even though I whizzed round every image, I hope to get back there before it leaves to give the second half the attention it deserves.
  • Len Lye's latest posthumous work, the Water Whirler. I was lucky to happen by in time for one of the hourly performances because when it's not going you wouldn't know it's there. On the hour though, the pole on a platform in the harbour starts to gyrate and spray water in wonderful patterns. It was gorgeous in the sunlight, and I expect would be even better by night.
  • New Light Through Old Windows, ceramics by Lucy Green at Roar! Gallery. Roar! is a showcase for outsider art which can all too often (in my experience) mean not-very-well-realised/conceptualised art. But this little show was charming, clever and satisfying. Plinth-top villages of little ceramic buildings glow invitingly through tiny windows, evocative of lamps at the end of a journey through snow or desert. Since I am trying to figure out internal lighting for books-in-the-making I was interested to see how Ms Green lit her works. From what I could tell, she is sticking christmas lights through holes in the plinths. Not going to work for me, but it certainly works for these pieces.
  • I also saw a selection of photographs by contemporary New Zealand photographers at Pataka, which included one of my favourite photographs ever. Wilhelmina Bay, Antartica by Anne Noble is divided in half horizontally. Above is the shining, awesome, barren splendour of Antartic coast and silver sea, juxtaposed below is the dark, wet deck of a cruise ship with mundane white plastic chairs arranged around tables spread with linen and jugs of water. An image as mind blowing (to me) as the best of Yann Artus-Bertrand. (For a selection of other Anne Noble photos of Antartica, look here).
  • I admit, I have a thing for Antartica so seeing the little ceramics show at the Hirschfield Gallery by Raewyn Atkinson was also very pleasing. Delicate white casts of tin cans and other objects evoke the early Antartic expeditions with rust coloured text and images transferred onto the ceramic surfaces. To enter the gallery you had to crunch across a band of broken china, like icy snow, entering an alien environment.

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