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On wall, Bill Culbert's Jug with Flowers, on the floor, Martyn Reynold's LA Valet and A Longtime Online Martyn Reynolds, LA Valet, 2010, cast aluminium, wood, 500 mm x 250 mm Martyn Reynolds, A Longtime Online, 2010, cast aluminium, wood,  500 x 500 x 250 mm Bill Culbert, Jug with Flowers, photograph, 1980 Martyn Reynolds, LA Valet (2010) on the left and A Longtime Online (2010) on the right In background, Bill Culbert and Ralph Hotere, WHALE/BONE, 1997, lacquer on wood with fluorescent tubes

Conversely, Reynolds' work develops a more nuanced approach to exploring the rapture and repulsion of modern materials and objects. There is a scene in Michelangelo Antonioni's L'eclisse where Monica Vitti's character stares in awe at a series of tall metal poles flexing and jangling in the wind. Both spellbound and troubled by these symbols of modernist architecture, she enters a kind of mesmerized stasis that is comparable to Reynolds' use of materials.

Auckland

 

Bill Culbert, Ralph Hotere, Christian Jankowski, Martyn Reynolds


24 August - 11 September 2010

Where many Auckland art galleries have been staging full-scale solo shows by young artists, it is unusual to see one such artist being paired with a couple of stalwarts of the New Zealand art scene. Sue Crockford’s most recent exhibition included the work of Martyn Reynolds, a member of the artist initiative A.C.F.A, alongside a judicious selection of pieces by Ralph Hotere, Bill Culbert and the German artist Christian Jankowski. Whether this exhibition was simply a gallery stock show or an attempt to draw art historical lineages between young and old, the elegant paring of Culbert’s single photograph and Reynolds’ sculptural pieces definitely made it worthwhile.

It is a delicate balance bringing together two different works without one thematically subsuming the other. Both Reynolds and Culbert’s pieces share a similar material sensibility, albeit one that is not entirely synchronised. Where other works in the show (a Hotere/Culbert collaboration and Jankowski’s latest droll social experiment) clamoured for attention, the quieter Reynolds Culbert coupling offered richer set of investigations.

Reynold’s sculptures involve an unorthodox combination of industrial materials and domestic furniture. His cast aluminium shapes balanced on spindly wooden legs have an ungainly appeal. Whereas the gleaming aluminium finish applied to their various surfaces is seductively futuristic. As much as these objects feel comfortably familiar - they would not seem so out of place in a living room - they also convey a compelling sense of strangeness.

Culbert has explored similar themes in a series of sculptures (not included in this show) that were comprised of glowing fluorescent tubes intersecting everyday objects and pieces of furniture. Resembling sci-fi lightsabers slicing through tables and chairs, these assembled sculptures offer a blatant visual juxtaposition of technology and everyday domesticity.

Conversely, Reynolds’ work develops a more nuanced approach to exploring the rapture and repulsion of modern materials and objects. There is a scene in Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’eclisse where Monica Vitti’s character stares in awe at a series of tall metal poles flexing and jangling in the wind. Both spellbound and troubled by these symbols of modernist architecture, she enters a kind of mesmerized stasis that is comparable to Reynolds’ use of materials.

In his fantastically absorbing photograph Jug with Flowers Culbert is similarly captivated by the play of light on everyday objects and spaces. Within the world of this simple interior scene it is unclear where artifice begins and ends, where artistic contrivance gives way to natural phenomena. The photographed room looks antiquated and possibly European. Crumpling at the corners one could be mistaken for thinking that this space was constructed from cardboard. In the centre a jug sits on a small table and casts an unusually crisp spotlight onto the ceiling above. An electric cable runs to the table suggesting a possible source of artificial light. A series of small dark squares is laid out in a modernist grid formation on the floor. A pane of glass is barely visible as it leans against the wall.

Culbert’s photo seems to capture a moment when familiar objects and phenomena become visually strange and wondrous. The corners of the room dissolve into shadows and shapes that elude logical explanations. This ambiguity is both unsettling and compelling, suggesting that objects and materials could have other lives outside of their intended purpose or everyday use. It is as though these materials have their own agenda, like they possessed some sort of innate quality that allows them to sit outside our daily experiences. Both Reynolds and Culbert’s works move between these realms - between the everyday and that which entices us to look outside it.

Kate Brettkelly-Chalmers

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This Discussion has 1 comment.

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Roger Boyce, 10:13 a.m. 9 September, 2010

Very readable bit of critical writing. Thanks.

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