4 BOD­IES OF WORK

The hu­man form be­comes the artist’s can­vas for film­maker Vin­cent Ward, who in­vited pho­tog­ra­pher Adrian Mal­loch and writer Elis­a­beth Eas­ther into his stu­dio to doc­u­ment the cre­ation of a new solo ex­hi­bi­tion.

North & South - - Contents - ELIS­A­BETH EAS­THER IS A NORTH & SOUTH CON­TRIBUT­ING WRITER. PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY ADRIAN MAL­LOCH.

The hu­man form be­comes the artist’s can­vas for film­maker Vin­cent Ward. Writer Elis­a­beth Eas­ther and pho­tog­ra­pher Adrian Mal­loch record an art­work in progress.

Grow­ing up in the back­blocks of the Wairarapa, film­maker and artist Vin­cent Ward ( Vigil, What Dreams May Come, River Queen) was al­ways fas­ci­nated by land­scapes.

“Be­cause I was rel­a­tively iso­lated, my ex­pe­ri­ences were to do with ob­serv­ing, of be­ing a part of the land­scape; and be­cause my mother [a Ger­man refugee] was go­ing through a hard time, I took great care to get out of her hair, as far away as pos­si­ble. To get away, I would roam.”

Cut to the present, Ward’s roam­ing

has brought him to Auck­land, where he has just staged his first ex­hi­bi­tion of new work in four years. Palimpsest/land­scapes uses both film and pho­tog­ra­phy to con­nect land­forms with hu­man emo­tions us­ing bod­ies in place of can­vas. “I was try­ing to phys­i­calise our land­scape, to make where we live, our en­vi­ron­ment, hu­man.”

Ward ad­mits he was a lit­tle ner­vous about al­low­ing a jour­nal­ist to ob­serve one of 14 shoot days and what was, in all hon­esty, a fairly ec­cen­tric set.

Pic­ture this: two dancers, both women; one red­head and one brunette. They’re both naked, their bod­ies cov­ered in white clay, smears of paint and some­thing that looks like moss. And it’s freez­ing in Ward’s cav­ernous stu­dio.

With the cam­era just cen­time­tres from their flesh, the naked dancers lie in a tan­gle of strings on a wooden bed of sil­ver foil, the plaster dry­ing and crack­ing on their goose­bumped skin. “This is go­ing to be messy,” says Ward, slather­ing one of the women with av­o­cado, diced green ki­wifruit, tamar­illo pulp, clay and pow­dered colours, puffs of sponge.

“Ex­plore your in­ner land­scapes,” he in­structs, from be­hind his mon­i­tor. “Find a shape within your­self, and I’ll tell you what it looks like from my point of view.”

Cue the dry ice, mist, gen­tle rain and steam. “Don’t wet my lens,” Ward warns one of the crew as the el­e­ments driz­zle and fly.

“The process is rel­a­tively ex­per­i­men­tal,” Ward ex­plains, amid the con­trolled chaos. “Like a lab­o­ra­tory. You go into some­thing with an idea, a theme, but you never know how it will ma­te­ri­alise. It won’t make sense, what you see to­day. But it will. This is a very lay­ered process.”

Be­low: The fe­male form is painted and gar­nished with chalk and plaster in the “Palimpsest/land­form” series, a new col­lec­tion of work by Vin­cent Ward, who reaches for “a sense of a car­tog­ra­phy exploring the outer re­gions of space”.

Be­low: An­other im­age from the same series. The cal­lig­ra­phy loosely trans­lates as “trac­ings of mem­ory, man and na­ture in­te­grated”.

Left: Open­ing night of Ward’s solo ex­hi­bi­tion at Tr­ish Clark Gallery in Auck­land. This piece, from the “New Words Un­der The Old” series, is a still pho­to­graph us­ing pig­ment ink on Hah­nemühle pa­per.

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