Peter Dornauf – 3 September, 2010
Shows like these always seem to attract their share of stuff from the gimmicky end of the spectrum produced by artists desperately striving to be terribly avant-garde but ending up only looking ephemeral and slightly silly, but when large amounts of money is involved and judges collude in this, who can blame the practitioners. It's a game everyone has learnt how to play.
Bold Horizon National Contemporary Art Award 2010
Judge: Rachel Kent
7 August - 9 January 2011
Whenever I walk out of one of these art awards feeling somewhat deflated, my immediate reaction is to want to see the works that didn’t make the cut. I want a Salon des Refuses and take in all the Manets that were deemed below par, insufficiently worthy of inclusion in the show.
My second reaction, after reading the artists’ statements that accompany their work, is to suggest a separate award on the basis of the most pretentious piece of inflated rhetoric associated with the least deserving creation. Often there seems to be a direct correlation, a kind of law of diminishing returns operating here; the more overblown the text, the less significant the piece.
My favourite from the show in this category would have to include such gems as “super-personal stylistic wanderings” and “problematisation”. One got the feeling with certain works that it wasn’t about the art so much as the writing about the art that recommended it.
And speaking of ironies, the work that did it least for this reviewer was the winner. Maybe it was the artist’s statement that impressed the judge. It waxed on about matters political and global and the works themselves certainly were happily in the shapes of globes. Christchurch-born, Locust Jones’s, Lozenge of Dawn, had enough in the title alone to have one reaching for a container, but this papier-mache ball creation was certainly too much for some, like Mark Curtis (Hamilton artist) who called it a “nasty craft project”. I have to admit it did remind me of stuff seen sitting at the discarded end of prep-school classrooms. Still, the judge, Rachel Kent, (Senior Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney) enjoyed its “playfulness and tactility”.
What was pleasing in the show was to see the inclusion of several sculptural works. Heap, by Ruth Thomas-Edmond, made of recycled cardboard, was a particularly inventive and standout piece.
Photography had a strong showing in The New Anatomy Lesson by Heather Straka while Blind Faith, a wall hanging by Megan Hansen-Knarhoi was a clever satirical take on the subject of religion. In terms of painting, Helen Calder’s bright globular and viscous hangings were able to catch the eye. Any of these would have been worthy winners.
Paintings don’t usually figure too prominently in art award selection these days, eg. The Walters (token presence, Saskia Leek) despite all the postmodern preaching on pluralism. Conceptual tends to predominate and there were several boring examples in this selection.
Shows like these always seem to attract their share of stuff from the gimmicky end of the spectrum produced by artists desperately striving to be terribly avant-garde but ending up only looking ephemeral and slightly silly, but when large amounts of money is involved and judges collude in this, who can blame the practitioners. It’s a game everyone has learnt how to play.
Having said that, there were some in the show where their innovation matched their acumen. One such was Fluoro Koeaea, by Gina Matchitt where duct tape was used in a mimicked construction of Maori motifs; a deserving jaunty entrant that helped make this show worthy of a prolonged visit.
To read a transcript of the panel discussion “Whose Oceania?” held recently in London, and more on NZ arts abroad, CLICK HERE
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