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JH

Uneven Taylor at Lett

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Imogen Taylor, Tubes Tied, 2011, drinking straw, string, acrylic on canvas, 500 x 400 mm Imogen Taylor, Impatians, 2011, string and acrylic on canvas, 500 x 400 mm Imogen Taylor, Untitled, 2012, drinking straws, string, acrylic on canvas, 500 x 400 mm Imogen Taylor, Herding Cats, 2011, drinking straw, string, acrylic on canvas, 500 x 400 mm Imogen Taylor, Kramer, 2012, string and acrylic on canvas, 500 x 400 mm Imogen Taylor, Stamen Wave, 2011, acrylic and pumice on canvas, 500 x 400 mm Imogen Taylor, Sisters, 2012, string and acrylic on canvas, 500 x 400 mm

There are a few successes here. About five. She should have kept the rest at home. It is not is as if the other works are mild failures. Some, I think, are appalling. So this is a show you really have to sift through. About half is trash, but the resolved ones are worth talking about. They are very interesting indeed.

Auckland

 

Imogen Taylor
Balls Deep

 

26 January 2012 - 25 February 2012

With its amusing smutty title (overtones of Jasper Johns) this presentation of ten works by Imogen Taylor shows advances (and reversals) in her practice since her anonymous participation in the Roman Mitch organised Caraway Downs at ARTSPACE last June. The new canvases seem tighter, more fastidious, and a lot more experimental in their testing of various colour combinations. And most with her ‘trademark’ straws and string.

Taylor’s works tend to be semi-abstract: their flat folded shapes and decorative motifs often align to makes up decipherable forms to do with body parts or dressed figures. The space is dreamingly atmospheric, often landscape-based with overlapping planes - and her colour combinations vary greatly from work to work. Many are high saturation and lack any sense of considered chromatic manipulation or preplanning. My impression is that she tends to not know what she is doing when she starts, and hopes that continual improvisation will get her out of difficulties rather than drop her deeper into a hole.

Yet there are a few successes here. About five. She should have kept the rest at home. It is not is as if the other works are mild failures. Some, I think, are appalling. So this is a show you really have to sift through. About half is trash (through poor use of colour, space and form) but the resolved ones are worth talking about. They are very interesting indeed.

Probably the most eye catching item - one with a pithy title - is the work on the invite, Tubes Tied. The rendered woman, with a vaporous blue cloud for a head, is ostensibly the subject of tubal ligation or female sterilisation (the tying of the fallopian tubes). She might also be a reference to Leger and his Tubism. The work seems quite sinister in mood: a suggestion of coersion. Across her towel-covered loins is a horizontal straw that is squirting out a sticky puddle to the right.

Impatians seems to be referring to Impatiens, the perennial flowering plant that has hot vibrant colours. In this painting, in the middle, a cluster of red petals could be a woman’s lips; and above them, a delicate curved line extends from a loop of string - that is perhaps a wisp of brown hair. Around the whole rhythmical bundle of coloured-in stringy enclosures is a beautifully intricate rectangular green frame. The work is a sophisticated blend of botanical whimsy and eroticism.

One comparatively rough looking painting, Untitled, has a z-shaped formation of parallel green-striped straws stuck on a thick, gluggy, icing-like square of white plonked on a loose grid of horizontal and vertical stripes. Two pale green curving rectangular planes maintain a vertical tension while horizontally, a purple blob balances a squiggle of purple cotton thread and a barely detectable pale pink blush. It is like a party birthday cake but with exquisite, precisely organized decorations.

Herding Cats shows a jug of cool water on a table with a champagne glass that turns into a straw. Snow-covered mountain ranges hover in front of it like lips, while floating over the glass are string-enclosed maraschino cherries and ice, and a huge sprig of mint in the jug. The image is carefully rendered in very thin paint that with the still life subject matter might allude to Frances Hodgkins.

The fifth work, Kramer, is a dark brown field on which are short snippets of wiggly white string and various floating geometrical forms that lock in and around each other in space. A Formica-like blob and triangle of glossy red veneer hang beneath a golden bent wooden strip that seems to turn into flat cardboard as it extends. Scattered across the illusory picture plane are thick painted loops of blue that appear sewn into the brown field or passing through it.

It is shame Taylor didn’t wait until she had a bigger, more consistent and tighter bunch of works. However the good ones make a visit worth the effort.

John Hurrell

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