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William Blake visits Pakuranga

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Poor old William Blake, suffering the indignity of being processed through a classic post-modern filter.

Auckland

12 Dec. 2009 - 7 Mar. 2010

 

Gavin Hipkins

The Billboards Project

 

Hot on the tail of his Bible Studies project at the Adam in Wellington, Gavin Hipkins presents with three billboards on a roadside wall, an aphorism from William Blake’s Proverbs of Hell: drive your plow over the bones of the dead.

Blake meant don’t pay too much mind clinging to past traditions, but engage instead with the present - as a proudly independent radical spirit. In his site specific version Hipkins makes it more about Auckland traffic density, local history and danger to Pakuranga pedestrians. It becomes black humour and not as Blake had it, an early Romantic, anti-Classical mini-manifesto.

When you look at this sequence of images across the street from Te Tuhi’s front door you see the background linear configurations, but not the fact that the letters are embroidered and then photographed. You also miss the fact that the Art Deco style geometric backdrops are made using a stencil-like photogram technique.

The three sequential backgrounds for the pried apart, 3-word phrases are: a diamond in front of a rectangular frame; a sun with radiating slat-like beams; a Spirographic rosette. When combined with the intact grim message these decorative motifs (and folksy stitching) seem incongruously frivolous, if not comical, their delicate filigree at odds with the pragmatic ‘get on with it’ imperative.

Poor old William Blake, suffering the indignity of being processed through a classic post-modern filter and having his liberating, iconoclastic credo chopped up and wildly recontextualised so. Like his mad subject, King Nebuchadnezzar, I weep for him.

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