Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 5 Trans-Tasman
Log 5 Trans-Tasman

Auckland Roundup
Megan Dunn


Sometimes you have to be kind to be kind. People get their knickers in a twist over the merest inkling of a nonplussed review, a case in point being Howie Matil's Ivan Anthony opening Doodly Internationalism hot on the heels of the last issue of Log Illustrated. This title was an "artistic" act of appropriation aiming to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative by recontextualising an unfavourable remark on Matil's work in Jon Bywater's Auckland roundup. This is a timely reminder of the tenuous and often loveless relationship between artist and critic, and the contradiction in terms that is "constructive critique." In such a small art community there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, and thus the potential for any mercenary commentary or venting of spleen is severely mitigated by one's needful pussyfooting around the tender pneumatic ego of the artist. In such a small and insular art community one can only be conscious when writing of whose neck is on the chopping block when the worm of circumstance inevitably turns, and the quid pro quo relationship between reviewer and reviewee, especially when the critic is a turncoat artist. Passing Bill Clinton on the cover of TIME magazine one is reminded that "it's a fine line between pleasure and pain." Mea Culpa.

A personal highlight of this artistic season was Yvonne Todd's photographic exhibition Fleshtone at Rm3. Post-Showgirls Todd reveals that she is still in pole position with this titillating litany of snaps and snatches from the annals of her teen history. Depicting friends and familiars, Todd creates indelible documentary images of feminine identity from the inevitable fledgling faux pas to the femme fatale forte. The secret of Fleshtone's success lies in its saturation of stereotypes and deft combination of cliches; the overexposed artiness of black and white cheesecake photography, the Pollyannaish Kewpie doll, the party pussy (a white moggy covered in streamers) and a Kodak close-up of a Kentwood fire. The juxtaposition of imagery, girls and their pussies, is inherently fascinating and seductive. Todd captures the shot that should have really been on the cover of The Beauty Myth, lipstick guerilla tactics on a snaggletoothed ingenue (Face Magazine 2000) immortalised in all her gory preteen agony. Fleshtone reiterates the strength of narrative and the continuing struggle for beauty in the face of adversity. It may be what's on the inside counts, but only if the outside figures in the right amounts. And whilst we know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, we also know what he be holding. Yvonne successfully avoids the hackneyed sentiments of the fantasist and the drudgery of the unmitigated realist, instead amalgamating the two to form a unique oeuvre that is at once erotic, nostalgic and genuinely affecting, proving that she is not just a bird in a gilded cage.

Rebecca Louise Yvonne Todd
Rebecca Louise
1997, Rm 3

The echo of female teen angst also reverberated throughout Violet Faigan's Fiat Lux show Playing for the B-Team. Hey! Hey! Faigan constructs her own paean to feminine social hierarchies, the plight of the underdog and the tyranny of the sanitary napkin with paper outfits like so many origamied pages of the female eunuch cut up on the kitchen table. This exhibition was reminiscent in style and content to Faigan's High Street Project exhibition Gurls Can't Surf, consisting of a suspended ballerina tutu and cheerleader costume (accessorised with paper pompoms), moody lighting and mangy pink streamers evocative of the halcyon days of American rite of passage films (thank you John Hughes!). The show's clincher was its soundtrack, a cocktail of music samples with a warped Beach Boys refrain that suggests Faigan, like Carrie on prom night, isn't picking up good vibrations.

Daniel Malone at Rm3 and Adam Cullen at Fiat Lux can be seen through the converse side of the looking glass. Where Todd and Faigan personalise the political (or vice versa), Malone and Cullen reflect, magnify and objectify the quotidian. In Malone's case this entails literally mirroring off the back wall of Rm3 that looks down upon Real Groovy Records in an uncomfortable illusion of spatial expansion and increased intimacy. Jon Bywater provided the accompanying micrograph, a lovely lexicon of quotable quotes culled from the best and worst of rock'n'roll ethos. Revolution revolved around representing the referential web of logic for which Malone's art has become renowned. Aptly, the micrograph closed with a refrain from Billy Idol's Dancing With Myself: "With the record selection and the mirror's reflection."

Adam Cullen's Self Loving was a series of eight black shiny boards with silver spray painted texts of glib sloganese cropped from the tabloid media as sublimated through the public consciousness; "Down we go, nudie show"; "Special Dreamtime" etc. And as the artist himself remarked, the show was "well hung." Cullen's work is well known for offering a dark mirror on the dehumanising force at will in advertising and the social economy at large. To risk reiterating a gross gender stereotype, the works represent two marked ideological camps: the feminine which speaks from subjective experience and an emotional dimension, to the masculine which is objective and colonial in approach, reflecting language but not penetrating the mystique or offering a personalised critique.

From the sublime to the ridiculous. Towards a Hyperreal Elam. The sculpture department in its annual group exhibition displayed some earthy artmaking with a naturalist bent from a dak-dropping, dread-locking, muck-raking student of the what-not-to-do school of rank hippiedom. The sight of some stick-in-the-mud stuck-in-the-mud was like poetry in pottery. The exhibition as a whole was spaced out; centrally located in the newly refurbished George Court Building. The venue constrained the body of evidence-the space and the work were polished but pretty vacant. They say that imitation is the sincerest from of flattery, but plagiarising one's tutor is perhaps taking the grade-mongering tactics a tad too far. The Lisa Crowley knock-offs were blatant art poaching with none of the gist or geist of the originals. Multiple plaster udders grafted onto an extended umbilical cord, like prop flops from some mammary fixated science fiction also-ran, were possibly the best for the sheer perversity of design and concept. That, however, is a telling indictment of the creative paucity of the show as a whole. If these are the artists of the future, let's hope tomorrow never comes-all things considered this insipid affair was a resounding dud. Too much, too little, too late.

Gavin Hipkins' curated exhibition of photography at Artspace, Folklore, was a successful precis of contemporary talent in this field of practice. The potential Achilles heel of the show was the sheer overplus of work, but better to err on the side of caution (sometimes more is more). Whilst recognising the importance of the retrospective parallels made in the show, one was inevitably attracted to establish personal favourites. Ava Seymour's grand Guignol collages are a disconcerting sight to behold with their mutants and psych-ward out-patients abiding under the ball of an unrelenting suburban neurosis and state funded housing tracts. Seymour is undeniably the master of her medium, creating phantasmagoric images that in a very real sense do haunt the mind and leave bats in your belfry. Ronnie van Hout trots out the perennial artistic leitmotifs of pagan nudes posed in pastoral dells-the scenario is like some sunseekers jamboree modelled in miniature as seen through a pair of steamy bifocals. The rabbit pulled out of the magician's hat was Ian Richardson's photography to which we had never before been exposed. Richardson produces evocative images that invoke a tangible sense of nostalgia, where snapshots of provincial backwaters assume the look and aspect of Elysian fields. Curator Gavin Hipkins' cornered kiwifruit warrants a mention, abstracting the national fruit from the postcard rack of the souvenir store-all that is kitsch must go askew.

You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run. At the end of the day you had to be there.

Megan Dunn
Spring 1998



Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room