Man over­drawn

Kapi-Mana News - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

He is best known for four ‘‘ mir­ror ball’’ sculp­tures out­side Te Papa which at­tracted vi­o­lent at­ten­tion in 2009 but Peter Trevelyan’s lat­est show is strictly no-touch.

Ten­u­ous, at Pataka un­til Novem­ber 19, is all about fragility and is phys­i­cally del­i­cate – the sculp­tures are made of hun­dreds of re­tractable pen­cil leads painstak­ingly glued to­gether.

Welling­to­nian Trevelyan, 39, made his name with his pub­lic art­work Mimetic Brother­hood, three­me­tre round mir­rored blobs which be­came punch­ing bags when in­stalled on Te Papa’s four plinths three years ago.

The Ten­u­ous sculp­tures might be hands-off, but they should spark just as vi­o­lent a re­ac­tion in peo­ple, Trevelyan says.

‘‘It should be a re­ally vis­ceral, gut re­ac­tion.’’

The main sculp­ture is a loom­ing hol­low cloud of pen­cil leads, which Trevelyan hopes will star­tle on­look­ers, if not give them a sense of ver­tigo.

‘‘It’s pushed it­self too far and it’s on the verge of over-ex­tend­ing it­self,’’ he says.

These gut re­ac­tions con­trast with the cere­bral in­spi­ra­tions be­hind Trevelyan’s work. The self-con­fessed ‘‘book nerd’’ is in­spired by phi­los­o­phy and the­o­ries of so­cial struc­ture.

So­cial sys­tems are made up of hun­dreds of small de­ci­sions, like his sculp­tures are made of in­di­vid­ual pen­cil leads. The re­sult is some­times an out-of-con­trol be­he­moth, hence the sin­is­ter sense of un­ease in the art­works.

Cli­mate change, the world fi­nan­cial col­lapse, 2011’ s Fukushima nu­clear dis­as­ter in Ja­pan are all sys­tem­atic mon­sters the av­er­age per­son has lit­tle con­trol over, Trevelyan says.

‘‘Things are end­ing but we’re still us­ing tools we’re sus­pi­cious of.’’

Trevelyan is deeply fas­ci­nated with the process of draw­ing, and has staged sev­eral exhibitions con­structed from pen­cil leads.

‘‘I’m re­ally talk­ing about draw­ing it­self. I’m talk­ing about draw­ing as a learn­ing tool and a tech­nol­ogy,’’ he says.

The sculp­tures in Ten­u­ous re­sem­ble ar­chi­tec­tural plans, and Trevelyan says he is in­ter­ested in the fu­til­ity of maps and mod­els – the only true model is 1:1, or life-size and there­fore re­dun­dant, he says.

De­spite these gloomy com­ments on so­cial and po­lit­i­cal struc­tures, Trevelyan de­nies he is a pes­simist. ‘‘Be­cause I’m mak­ing art I’d have to say I’m an op­ti­mist. I’m a pretty grumpy op­ti­mist, a cyn­i­cal op­ti­mist.’’

Grumpy op­ti­mist: Peter Trevelyan ex­plores dark themes in his ex­hi­bi­tion Ten­u­ous at Pataka but says mak­ing art is a hope­ful act.

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