A gold nineteenth century Etruscan Revival brooch is implanted, forming an eye, into the colourful knitted head of Princess Afrique, Weeping, while a toy monkey clings to her neck. Sunlight streams through the windows of Northcote Point’s Blikfang Gallery in Auckland, illuminating the ruby at the brooch’s centre. At first glance the antilogy between these objects so disparate in age, material and origin is palpable.
I’ve been into five different Auckland galleries in the last 24 hours for various reasons – to say hello to an old colleague, conduct an interview, and simply to look – and the strange and somewhat fascinating points of connection and contrast are still swirling and connecting in my head.
Neil Pardington’s photographs of scientific specimens at Two Rooms Gallery are rivetingly beautiful yet slightly sickening – an embryonic kiwi is curled within a glass jar in one photograph, reproduced at such a scale so that the viewer is dwarfed physically (and perhaps feels slightly smaller spiritually, too). I was drawn to the photograph of a cream filing cabinet, each drawer meticulously labelled alphabetically by hand in an old fashioned flowing script. Pardington has co-opted some of Michel Foucault’s titles for his photographs of specimens from the marine science collection at Auckland Museum, including “The order of things”. I ran across Putiki Street and up the stairs above the mechanics to see Nicola Farquhar’s energetic new paintings at Hopkinson Mossman Gallery; expressive colourful brushstrokes assaulted my eyes, freshly peeled from Pardington’s precise photographs. Farquhar’s paintings evoke female forms. I’m taken with the largest on the far wall, which looks like the outline of a madonna and child.
Thinking about all those Medieval icons of Mary and Jesus we looked at in the shadowy art history classroom with Miss Don during my final year of high school, and my own little baby, I climb the stairs next door to look around Orex Art’s current exhibition, “The Religious Experience”. After a few minutes I leave – I’ve promised my brother I’ll look at this show with him, and I don’t want to see it all until then. It’s an interesting choice of theme for any gallery of contemporary art, particularly a New Zealand gallery, with our obsession with avoiding religion.
On the other side of Great North Road, Objectspace has dangled and draped necklaces and other jewellery on pieces of large brightly coloured plywood for the finale of the Handshake jewellery project. The exhibition design manages to remain open yet interesting, and the plywood frames artworks well. Some pieces may have benefitted from horizontal display rather than vertical, but knowing the complexities of working with 24 artists and a raft of others involved, I know how complex such negotiations can be. Across the harbour bridge at Northcote Point and uninhibited by the need to consult any makers, Sheridan Keith combines antiques and other objects into installations which she describes as a “playroom for the eyes”. The Blikfang Gallery (a Danish word meaning a trap for the eye) is due to open next month, opposite the Bridgeway cinema.