World made of steel, made of stone
Honey Brown, Josephine Jelicich, Deborah Rundle, Isabel Wadeson-Lee, and Daegan Wells
Artist talk: Friday 5 November, 4:30pm
Exhibition runs: 6 November – 12 December 2021
This is an exhibition about making, and how it can locate us, consolidate a sense of self and relationships. Bringing into the gallery a range of materials—aluminium, parāoa rēwena, digital media, steel, glass, wool, and language—World made of steel, made of stone recognises making as a form of thinking. Further, works in this show invite us to think about the body itself as a series of relationships: physical and material, whānau-inherited, gendered and intimate, held in language.
Artists Honey Brown, Josephine Jelicich, Deborah Rundle, Isabel Wadeson-Lee, and Daegan Wells have established modes of making that are hands-on, and rely on learned and applied knowledge of their materials. One result of this is that the works are not developed in isolation, but socially, in correspondence or through quotation, through whanaungatanga and relationships, and with practice. Learning how to work with these hard and soft materials necessarily involves exchange: intergenerational passing on of knowledge (in the case of Brown and Wells’ work), intuitive experiment with the physical properties of aluminium and steel (Wadeson-Lee, Jelicich), editing and recontextualising text and found objects for alternative meaning (Rundle), as part of the labour of conceptually resolving the work.
Deeply pleasurable and felt connections between the body, the repetitive movements of making something to completion, and tools, resonate across these works. Often, poetic language registers these connections most acutely. In her extended epic poem, Memorial, Alice Oswald writes, “Like a good axe in good hands / Finds out the secret of wood and splits it open”, and reading this, perhaps you, too, feel the line of energy: arm-hand-woodenaxehandle-axeblade-wood-heartwood as a single gesture. In her work Rundle writes, “rust pepper / tang again / in my mouth” and perhaps you, too, taste it.
There is also pain, humour, and worry, in these works. Through 2020 lockdown, Honey Brown’s mother Katrina Brown and father Dread Brown passed on the recipe for rēwana bread to the artist across various digital channels, while Honey struggles to make a loaf that satisfies. In the background, a sample from Notorious B.I.G’s I love the dough plays: “Gotta let it show, I love the dough, hey / I love the dough, more than you know.” An earlier text by Jelicich on her work, To build a wall, registers the anxiety of the maker: “Things I’m worried about—/ That a wall is too intense / That a wall is too boring.” Wells’ work, handcrafted from local primary industry products—wool, timber, aluminium from the Tiwai Point smelter—stands in the space like a soft, strong wall against mass production, and extractive heteropatriarchal capitalism.
The title of this exhibition comes from What a feeling, sung by Irene Cara, featured in the movie Flashdance (1983). The connections between movie and exhibition are slight, but they are sinewy: welding and dancing; the ecstasy of movement; labour and the body; sheer surfaces and skin calluses; desire and identity; paying the rent and wanting more. The movie is nearly 30 years old, Irene Cara is 62 years old now, lead actor Jennifer Beals is close to 60; everyone is older. World made of steel, made of stone is a selective and contemporary reclamation of metallic, tough, tender elements from a problematic classic dance movie, and a power ballad that makes the heart beat faster in your chest.
Honey Brown, nō Ngāpuhi, Tūwharetoa, Taranaki, lives in Ōtautahi, where they are studying a BFA, majoring in sculpture at Ilam School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury. They are takatāpui. Their work mainly involves using digital media to explore their own intersecting identities, and crossovers between cultural practices and their contemporary everyday life.
Josephine Jelicich is based in Tāmaki Makaurau. She graduated with a BFA (honours) through College of Creative Art Toi Rauwhārangi Massey University of Wellington (2016), and has participated in exhibitions including at 5hell (group), Tāmakai Makaurau, 2020; and Happy Hour (with Yvette Velvin), Precinct 35, Te Whanganui-a-Tara (2019). Her practice draws on observation and reuse of everyday, often industrially produced and cheap materials, and thinking around humans' attachment to things. In 2019 she completed the Furniture Makers’ Programme at The Centre for Fine Woodworking, Whakatū Nelson, and makes furniture alongside working as a gallery technician.
Deborah Rundle is based in Tāmaki Makaurau. She is queer, feminist, pākehā/tangata tiriti. Rundle’s work often focuses on slippages within language as a means of opening up alternative meanings and possibilities for change. Recent exhibitions include On My Volcano Grows the Grass, Parasite Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau (2021); No More the Fruit, RM Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau (2021); How to Live Together (group), ST PAUL St Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau (2019); The Future of Work (group), The Dowse Art Museum, Te Whanganui-a-Tara (2019); and Are We Not Ready? Te Tuhi, Tāmaki Makaurau (2018).
Isabel Wadeson-Lee is now based in Ōtepoti, having recently moved from Ōtautahi. In 2020 she graduated from Ilam School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury, with an BFA (honours), majoring in sculpture. Wadeson-Lee’s work concerns the materiality of language, drawing causal links between the built environment, fiction and speech, using hand-forged steel and the traditional craft of blacksmithing. Her work Wordsmith (2020) was chosen as the 2020 SoFA Select acquisition by the University of Canterbury.
Daegan Wells graduated from Ilam School of Fine Arts, University of Canterbury in 2015. In 2017, he was the recipient of the Olivia Spencer Bower residency award, Christchurch. Through his archival and sculptural practice, Wells uses narrative to address political, environmental, social and cultural events from recent history. Recent exhibitions include Caught; slack and taut, Laree Payne Gallery, Kirikiriroa Hamilton (2021); Bush Coat, Enjoy Contemporary Art Space, Te Whanganui-a-Tara (2020); Start with a Vase (group, curated by Sebastian Clarke), Hastings City Art Gallery, Heretaunga Hastings (2019); and Catch (group, curated by Becky Richards), Tinning Street Presents, Naarm Melbourne (2019).