Aurora surveys the exhibition programme of 2016 and looks forward to 2017.
Yuki Kihara’s new video work Invocation features her biblical character of Salome performing a hand dance of ritualistic and symbolic gestures. Maui Descending a Staircase I (After Duchamp) – from A study of a Samoan Savage series being featured at the Honolulu Biennale, March 2107 – is a remarkably innovative allegory which explicitly references the history of motion photography while telling the story of Maui, the Samoan demi-god.
Chris Heaphy’s unique pictorial dialect establishes visual paradoxes (Phar Lap and the Princess) in cultural landscapes, where history, time and event become conflated. He uses symbol and meaning in deliberately plural ways (Rummo Waits) that pose questions while serving to enhance the ambiguities present and constantly suggested.
Both William Hodges and Nootka Warrior by Lisa Reihana are from the Venice Biennale video (In Pursuit of Venus) being featured at that prestigious event in 2017. She collapses time, building considerable universal metaphors. In earlier, critically acclaimed signature works, Diva and Urban Warrior, Reihana re-interprets, re-contextualising myth, cultural and gender identities.
Andy Leleisi’uao’s distinctive paintings commence as pictograms and riddles, where partial stories emerge inside narratives that imply rather than state, where hieroglyphs and allusions to work, games, leisure, life and death, heaven and hell become parables eliciting the viewer’s active contribution.
Israel Birch’s steel and lacquer paintings absorb light and refract it. He uses grinding and carving techniques below the surface and in that manner establishes different visual layers that alter and become revealed in quite magical ways.
Michael Hight demonstrates mastery of two quite different modes of expression in his practice. His surreal, black silhouetted paintings appear markedly simpler at first than his beehive works but that is a misreading – in significant works such as Paterson Inlet and Towards Port William objects become metaphoric symbols infused with the tensions of contrast and contradiction, cultural dynamics of (implied or previous) use and the lore of place.
A Discussion Paper on Western Art by Nigel Brown is a major work that critiques the common assumptions and arrogances found in most art discourses. Brown’s incisive wit, broad cultural dialogues, relentless questioning of societal behaviours and the politics of our time are key fundamentals of paintings with considerable didactic purpose.
Hannah Beehre takes us out into space; Michael Shepherd to Otago and the agrarian revolution; Reuben Paterson visits the Dutch still-life tradition and in that process demonstrates astonishing technical mastery and beauty; Mervyn Williams in Whiplash Red returns to the concerns of optical art, what we see and how we see it.
There have been some remarkable sculptural exhibitions and astonishing works produced in recent times: the visual and spatial contradictions of Neil Dawson’s X 1 and the illusions and transformations of Vortex 5 for example. Chris Charteris’ sympathy for stone and pattern making is wonderfully demonstrated in Mauri Ora and The Meeting Place. Paul Dibble’s The Ark and Parallel Worlds are monumental in scale and achievement. Graham Bennett’s What’s at Stake is a treatise on environmental degradation and a world in crisis.
There are important works by Lonnie Hutchinson, Jenna Packer, Te Rongo Kirkwood and Simon Edwards with Anya Sinclair’s new atmospheric landscapes representing her debut at Milford Galleries.