Sense of scale
Gavin Hipkins takes over The Dowse
With 25 years of exhibiting behind him, The Dowse is now staging an ambitious retrospective of Gavin Hipkins’ work, which will fill all eight of its galleries. “He makes really intelligent art,” says director Courtney Johnston, “which is also a pleasure to spend time looking at.”
Hipkins’ work covers the seemingly quotidian and the everyday. What gives it power?
It’s trite to say artists working in this way make us look twice at the world – but also true. I love how scale and significance get played with: a tiny object is produced as a heroic image, the creation of a sense of grandeur by piling up dozens of mundane things, the decision to photograph a diorama of a landscape instead of the real thing.
This show is taking over the gallery?
Gavin often makes multi-part works. ‘The Habitat’ is made up of 72 photos, ‘The Colony’ of 100, ‘The Field’ of a whopping 1500 photograms. We realised early on we would need a lot of space to do justice to his work.
What will visitors come away with?
I hope people get a sense of the intellectual and aesthetic curiosity that drives him. He’s always resisted being pigeon-holed as making a certain kind of work, and I think that’s intriguing.
Hipkins is often described as a ‘tourist within photography’. What does that mean?
On one hand, it speaks of him as an artist who has sampled from all the genres of photography. On the other, it describes how literal travel, camera in hand, from Rotorua to Shanghai, West Coast beaches to Berlin, is core to his work. There’s always more than one idea at stake in a Gavin Hipkins photograph.