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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Art of place



I recently visited “Unnerved: The New Zealand Project” at the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane (Australia). (http://qag.qld.gov.au/exhibitions/current/unnerved )
Having lived in New Zealand for the last three years, I was struck by how familiar the exhibition felt. At the same time I wondered how strange it must seem to anyone who has not spent a good deal of time in New Zealand.
How do you get McCahon’s use of signage, if you haven’t absorbed the casual roadside signage along a secondary New Zealand road? That rapidly disappearing feature of the New Zealand landscape is documented in this exhibition, yet easily passed by.
How do you grasp the significance of this image







Lisa Reihana Ngāpuhi: Ngāti Hine, Ngāi Tu New Zealand b.1964 Dandy (from Digital Marae 2001–ongoing) 2007

if you are not aware of the significance of colonial, Victorian and Edwardian portraits of Maori, such as those by Charles Frederick Goldie?



Portrait of Te Aho-te-Rangi Wharepu, Ngati Mahuta. Also known as “A Good Joke”

Connections and contrasts–Maori with moko in western dress, Goldie’s elderly Maori, the 'noble relic of a noble race' contra Reihana’s man in his prime, Goldie’s photorealism and the virtual realism of digital photography. But how do you come to grasp this, without the socio-cultural and historical context? Is it possible to make art which is of place and yet beyond place?