Chris Charteris celebrates the fundamental properties of stone and bone with aroha and a generosity of spirit. Truth, Simplicity and Love is a comprehensive exhibition that includes Charteris’ well-known stone necklaces, carved objects of stone, bone and shell, and a suite of precious pounamu discs.
Charteris believes that pounamu is already perfect as it is, so endeavours to say as much as possible with the minimal use of line and form. The artist’s hand lies lightly on his materials, despite the physical effort needed to shape them and the subtle forms he uses allow the stone to remain in focus. The straight lines and notched edges that interrupt the circles are signposts for the eye, directing the gaze over each disc. The juxtaposition of geological and artistic processes enhances the crystalline beauty of the former and reveals the restrained touch of the latter.
When backlit, the kawakawa pounamu reveals its lush interior and the whorls of green seem alive and organic: this is no cold, lifeless stone. Each light-infused disc appears to glow with a physical manifestation of its own mauri. The light itself becomes an intrinsic part of the works rather than an adjunct element. It animates the pounamu and materialises in the spaces Charteris has carved out, completing each sculpture. There is a beautifully balanced tension between the translucent liquidity of the solid – and very hard – stone and the unexpected forms created from an element without physical substance.
In contrast to the translucence of the pounamu works, the heft, mass, and scale of Charteris’ carved stone objects enhances their aura of consequence. They seem to be made for the hand but are over-zied; they hint at utilitarian or ritual purposes but any meaning is deliberately obscured by the artist. The catch-all museological phrase Charteris uses for titles - ‘ceremonial object’ - is suggestive of stories lost to time, but these are not museum pieces, these objects have yet to start their stories. As each work finds a place and passes from hand to hand, it will become part of everyday ceremonies, accruing histories as it goes.