The New Compendium is a diverse exhibition with a particular sculptural focus. While comprised primarily of new works, there are a number of compelling older works providing internal narrative links.
Chris Charteris’ stacked stone necklace forms (The Meeting Place, Forces of Land and Ocean) are plural metaphors of love, redolent of place. More explicit, specific, cultural motifs arise in the incised geometric patterns carved onto the andesite slab surfaces of Wi ni Bakoa, Rangimarie, and Mauri Ora. Paul Dibble likewise uses symbols and birds as cultural tenets. In compelling, major works, such as (the majestic) Parallel Worlds and The Ark, Dibble melds the past and present together, uniting Christian parable, Polynesian symbols and extinct and threatened birds with explicit dialogues about our stewardship of the environment.
What we see and how we see is a primary concern of Neil Dawson’s work. Using illusion and allusion and architectural language, Dawson masterfully suggests and dissolves by changing scale, recomposing space, using pattern, shape, shadow and light refraction as fundamental presences and key altering devices.
While in many respects John Edgar lets the stone – its acute and particular materiality - do all the talking, his formal design concerns, constrained palette and highly developed awareness of environmental (and celestial) phenomena link his works directly to the layered sensations, changing atmospheres and abstract dialogues present in all of J S Parker’s paintings. Parker’s mottled palette-knife surfaces harness light, the mutability of the seasons, the structures of the river-flats landscape of Marlborough and sky above.
Shane Woolridge also demonstrates an acute sensitivity with stone and to finding the sculpture within. Drop of Water combines Welsh slate and clay brick inclusions: a stacked rhythm and graceful, formal, design rises up. In Stonefruit and Oystercatcher Woolridge has located awe-inspiring representational certainty and literal beauty in breccia and siltstone.
Wayne Barrar’s remarkable photographs of diatom fossils and single-celled algae take us into the world we cannot ordinarily see. Drawn from the astonishingly diverse Oamaru diatom resource (where over 700 species have been identified, many unique to the area and many now extinct), Barrar reveals a hidden world of abstracted patterns, where events are suggested and life presented as frozen in time.
Graham Bennett’s What’s at Stake is a segment of the globe impaled on spikes and a clarion-call about a world in crisis, where environmental degradation, pollution and resource depletion is observed to be a factual norm. Jenna Packer also directly portrays and confronts such issues, as well as narcissism, vanity and the immorality of the banking industry while traversing time and place, using history, contradiction, myth and humour to build powerful allegories and visual parables.
Glass as a sculptural medium has a dimension no other material has – it has internal space that can be seen changing as it interacts with light, spatial density, viewing position, colour tones and hue. Watcher: Treasures of the Earth is a major new work by Ann Robinson, where the inserts appear like precious, faceted jewels. The Cactus Vase (Sapphire Rose) and Ice Bowl # 89 are amongst Robinson’s most acclaimed forms but what sets these especially apart from all others is that they are using dichroic glass which completely changes colour under florescent light.
Stephen Bradbourne and Emily Siddell’s complementary skill set and symbiotic practice is wonderfully demonstrated in three Still Life sets – Grey, Tea, Amber. Comprised of everyday objects (glasses, bottles, cups, vases, bowls, containers) and imbued with the languages of mundanity and the history of the New Zealand home and kitchen, these sets become so much more.
Terry Stringer’s We are Shaped by our Childhoods is noticeably protective and tender in sentiment, with the transformation from one image to the next and those sharp contrasts wonderfully delivered.