Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 6 - Abuse of Substance
Log 6 - Abuse of Substance

Hamilton Roundup
Jason O'Dea


Don't believe the lies. Art in Hamilton is "where it's happening." Sure, we've suffered numerous setbacks - plagued by disaster, one may even say. Nevertheless, looking back over the past few months, I fondly remember several highlights - islands of hope in the sea of indifference and so on. R-E-S-P-E-C-T to all the true believers stickin' it to the man.

The Waikato Museum has been keeping up its end of the deal by providing for some out of town talent, and a few local heroes too. You gotta wonder though, how committed are they to supporting work that's done here, with what sometimes come across as token inclusions. This is in no way a reflection of the artists; rather it's an indication of the lack of confidence in them from the powers that be. Of course, the lack of a dedicated public art gallery is glaringly obvious, and while potential exists, the past has seen it crushed by commercialism.

August at the Museum saw Hamiltonian photographer Margi Moore participate in A Town Called Malice, a curated show with significant New Zealand artists under the theme of domestic chaos and suburban angst. Others included the likes of Merylyn Tweedie, Bill Hammond, Phillip Clairmont, Marie Shannon, Jenny Dolezel, Alexis Hunter, Michael Smither and Mary McIntyre.

Somewhat curious was that Moore stood out as one of the most contemporary of the retrospectively 70s crowd. Her work explored those fine lines between right and wrong, youth and age, and the malevolence and naivety that exists in cognisance.

Next up, David Clegg's [mono - the museum of noname objects] stopped in. The fact that most of our 'live' exposure to art in Hamilton is often provided by whatever is passing through the community at the time (like water in the river, yeah?) gave some poignancy to Clegg's small travelling museum. The suitcases that hold the objects for storage and transport were somehow neither included nor excluded from the installation space. They were perched on the edge with no apparent design and confused their role as an integral part of the work.

Boyd Webb's touring show passed through recently. Unfortunately, passing through was all I saw of it. The universe comes to Hamilton, both macro and micro. Whilst art from outside of Hamilton can seem distant and fleeting, the art created here often tents towards being of a more intimate, accessible and domestic level. David Cook's Home Comforts took the intimate to new levels. The small gallery at the museum became the centre of a living room where one was offered a voyeuristic inclusion in the life of an 'ordinary' family. Four walls, four grids of nine photos comprising a montage gave the feel of looking through the window into a well-lit room. (Unsettling was the fact that the viewer became the object, out of place, and observed from all four sides.) Your intrusion noted, you're free to leave.

A lack of established venues has contributed to the spawning of new DIY artists finding strength through oppression and creating collectives, exhibition spaces, public works and alternative sites in order to extend the discourse for contemporary art in Hamilton. The DOT 101 collective has been actively promoting art in the public arena of Hamilton city for some time now with one of its more significant projects being En Vitrine, a short term artist run space. En Vitrine aims to provide access to art - a place to show and see ideas. Open 24 hours, viewable from the sidewalk and with a weekly turnover of artists, it brings a mixture of ideas to light.

It has been mildly irritating that so many interesting new artists here are resorting to the cafZ scene as an art arena, where all too often the work is lost somewhere between the chatter of different conversations, the clutter of furniture and crockery and the bottom of a lattZ bowl. Rather than the artist creating an intervention in the space, the space intrudes on the work. Lisa Benson's Allocation at Metropolis CafZ was but one of these 'cafe casualties'. The cream of the Waikato was there, though I suspect contemplation of the paintings was a side issue to the who's-who-a-thon. The paintings themselves, powdery blue chalk lines resonating against the stark whiteness of a gessoed canvas made quite beautiful explorations into process, materials and the residue of a moment, giving an insight into the instant.
"Could this be the birth of creation?"
"I don't know, pass the sugar."

In the city with the most used car lots and supermarkets per capita, our self-sufficient incognito guerillas gather together planning missions of glory against the bureaucratic city arts council and the all-too-common indifference of the good people of Hamilton city. The revolution is nigh. The rest is history. Or is this a passing fad?

Jason O'Dea
Summer 1999



Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room