Un­set­tling re­al­ity and trauma

City Gallery, Welling­ton has an eclec­tic group of ex­hi­bi­tions run­ning un­til Novem­ber 19.

Manawatu Standard - - Arts - FRAN DIB­BLE

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.

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