Unsettling reality and trauma
City Gallery, Wellington has an eclectic group of exhibitions running until November 19.
You can’t let spring weather put you off a trip to Wellington, especially now the motorway makes the trip so much faster. And City Gallery, Wellington, has been having such a good run with offering exhibitions that always feel fresh, new and interesting.
They get touring shows that have that much more clout, and when they do curated group shows, they seem to have had more curatorial time put into them, so offer new slants.
This one on show is ‘‘Occulture: The Dark Arts’’, works by New Zealand and international artists, including a weird potpourri of installations, charcoals, prints and paintings. There’s even an odd perfume with what is meant to be the ‘‘scent of the apocalypse’’ by a British partnership.
The theme of the occult fits in well with the contemporary. There is a certain fascination in a youthful ‘‘alternative’’ genre, but it also carries a great sense of history with it.
Included are studies by Henry Fuseli, circa 1783, loaned by Auckland City Gallery, that are thought to have framed our current ideas of how the witches in Macbeth would have appeared, and a more lyrical series of prints by Leo Bensemann, with a strong ‘‘nouveau’’ feel to the design work looking like visual fairy tales.
All sorts of other entries fill out the show, including Dwyer’s giant wall charms, astrological charts and a ‘‘spell’’ directly painted on the gallery wall. But of particular note are the charcoal studies by Christchurch-based Jason Grieg, who has been working around this theme for a while.
His charcoals (and one included painting) are skilful renderings of strange figures in darkened corridors and alleys. They have a strong, somewhat seedy, Victorian flavour to them, and in keeping with this the gallery has donned deep burgundy-coloured walls to show them off. These seem to reek even more than said perfume, of the dusty magic of old.
The rest of City Wellington’s eclectic mix, upstairs, includes, firstly, ‘‘Lost World’’, by John Stezaker, a British artist who collages vintage photographs of actors and actresses with postcards, creating a grafted surreal blend. Some have round ‘‘bubbles’’ cut out of them, others cut and meld images together, while some use head shots with kitschy landscape postcards placed over the face – creating an uneasy flavour, of life being just out of kilter.
Also upstairs is ‘‘Colonial Sugar’’, a comment on the even more unsettling history of Australian sugar and the slave trade. Two artists show their depictions: Well-known Australian artist Tracey Moffatt with her ‘‘Plantation’’ photographs, and Jasmine Togo-brisby, with an exhibition of a pile of skulls cast in unrefined sugar and resin, glistening in an oddly jewel-like pile of horror.
Witches, unsettling reality and traumatic history – they’re on at the City Gallery, Wellington until the middle of November.
Rosaleen Norton, The Vision, circa 1970.
Mikala Dwyer, Balancing Spell for a Corner (Aleister and Rosaleen), 2017. Courtesy Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland and Hamish Mckay Gallery, Wellington
John Stezaker, Mask (Film Portrait Collage) CCVII, 2016. Courtesy The Approach, London
John Stezaker, Love VIII, 2006. Courtesy The Approach, London.
Yin-ju Chen, Liquidation Maps: East Timorese Crisis, East Timor, 1999, 2014.