Navigators as a thematically linked exhibition traverses history and politics, and in that process we journey into the cosmos, revisit myth and cultural signifiers, go to sea and take a new look at the local environment.
Lisa Reihana’s Captain James Cook (Female), from the acclaimed In Pursuit of Venus work (now added to and being shown at the 2017 Venice Biennale, opening May) is an enthralling gender-bending re-imagination of the great explorer. Ranginui, (from the signature Digital Marae series) delivers the narrative of myth, flight and the night sky. Likewise, with rare authority, accuracy and breath-taking visual discipline, Hannah Beehre creates forever deepening cosmic space, utilising velvet, dyes and Swarovski crystals.
The historical subtexts and cultural plurality in Chris Heaphy’s Rummo Waits acts as a beguiling visual riddle and a time-bending journey; the viewer actively contributes to the work’s immense dialogues and its raft of possibilities.
Other Histories by Garry Currin delivers one of the key tenets of his work: being out at sea and looking back to a landscape that is appearing and disappearing simultaneously. His unique blending of sensation and fact, suggestion and place, in a process of hiding and revealing is wonderfully delivered. Peter James Smith is far more literal, using history, science, old navigation charts as mnemonic overlays on the sublime landscape. Robert Ellis explores Mt Eden’s diverse history – as a pa site, where colonial troops camped, streams flowed – by tilting and presenting it as a topographical landscape filled with multiple metaphors about time, valour, and belief, using trig stations as navigation signs.
Christine Thacker’s adventurous suite of jugs, High Seas and Constant Stars, is a wonderful celebration of form and the suggestive tales located in the surface mark-making. Chris Charteris carves stone, adding forms and patterns that become cultural objects. Inevitably, there resides in all his work sensations of geological time, geographical dispersal, ocean journeys; Polynesia.
The foreshore and seabed debate was one of the most significant dialogues of recent New Zealand political and social history. Michael Shepherd explores the farce that surrounded the debate to replace the current New Zealand flag. He utilises sand (as an actual medium), the still-contested seashore as place, and the metaphor of (the ever-changing) sandcastle as a stage, positing that there are many layers of meaning, previous flags and history demanding argument and expressing other core values.
Ross Ritchie’s very important painting Eclipse takes us back, in his characteristic manner, to Captain Cook, Omai and the transit of Venus. Jenna Packer likewise walks amongst the corridors of history, conflating time and place. The astonishing Sons of Adam Smith is a morality tale and a treatise on the economic orthodoxy that underpins the behaviours of Wall Street and how that ultimately affects us all. John Edgar also looks to the transit of Venus, exploring the lenticular form, found in geological formations, clouds, nuts, seeds, optical lenses, the discus and of course the phenomenon of space and celestial event.
Wayne Barrar navigates the local environment. He takes us to places most normally do not go, building wondrous poems of place. Nigel Brown re-examines Captain Cook, Graham Bennett uses sections of the globe and string navigation maps as core devices, asking where are we from? Andy Leleisi’uao invents silhouetted worlds and dynamic events that are erringly familiar. He builds tales of life and leisure, where time seems conflated and everyone is on an indeterminate journey back and forth.