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JH

Bush Images

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Kushana Bush, Tucked In, 2012, gouache and pencil on paper, 75 x 55cm Kushana Bush, Balloon Face, 2012, gouache and pencil on paper, 75 x 55cm Kushana Bush, Bedroom Scene with Dog 2012, gouache and pencil on paper, 75 x 55cm  Kushana Bush, Men at Pool, 2012, gouache and pencil on paper, 75 x 55cm Kushana Bush, The Conjurer, 2012, gouache and pencil on paper, 75 x 55 cm Kushana Bush, Family at Dawn, 2012, gouache and pencil on paper, 75 x 55 cm

An 'abstractionist' interpretation - downplaying her role as an illustrative humourist (amped up by her flair for providing superfine detail) or mischievous satirist (where are those reaching hands and longing eyes going?) - instead accentuates the edges of her shapes, the way dominant contours crash over each other, and her shrewd positioning of ‘colourless' limbs. It often subtly confuses the cohesiveness of the swathed bodies so that the individuals merge.

Auckland

 

Kushana Bush
Omens

 

15 August - 8 September 2012

In the older part of the Ivan Anthony space (left at the top of the stairs) there is a new Kushana Bush show, with lots of figures in billowing garments and (nowadays) revealing not so many wobbly & pointy bits as before. Her later move away from exposed flesh - rhythmically stacked up torsos and complicatedly intertwined limbs - is more comical in mood now partly because it features decorative flaps of entangling fabric or flowing ripples of exquisite silk. Oddly it allows Bush to become a sort of abstractionist.

Such an interpretation - downplaying her role as an illustrative humourist (amped up by her flair for providing superfine detail) or mischievous satirist (where are those reaching hands and longing eyes going?) - instead accentuates the edges of her shapes, the way dominant contours crash over each other, her shrewd positioning of ‘colourless’ limbs. It often subtly confuses the cohesiveness of the swathed bodies so that the individuals merge. All this along with an all over musicality.

In other words Bush seems to know how to lock shapes together to create intriguing tensions, using juxtaposed, clashing vectors mixed with banks of voluminous and creased ornamental fabric. Her images are like Japanese woodcuts in their celebration of plane and pattern, but being made in Dunedin, some of her faces almost end up akin to early Jeffrey Harris visages. (He lives there.) Other ball-like heads seem like chubby-jowled Botero portraits. Or Spencer.

Looking at Bush’s implied narratives, perhaps the most interesting work is of an couple in a rumpled bed wearing fibre-coiled hats. He faces away, sitting at the far end of the mattress, depressed as if impotent. She in turn seems to be taunting a whippet with her vagina but the dog won’t have a bar of it and nervously looks away.

Another intriguing image is of a group of gay men in a child’s paddling pool. Their longing is the subject matter: the eyes, mouths, hovering hands and one solitary cock. A symbolic watering can and bucket lie abandoned on the ground.

It will be interesting to see where Bush goes with this work, especially the groups of clothed figures. I say that because the fabulist aspects about sexual behaviour are what give her images power. The others don’t seem so interesting though they have lots of erotic overtones. Without the explicit sexual content however, will she turn into a jocular and cloying Beryl Cook (limited to giggly cuteness) or can she go beyond whimsy (and sweetness) and transmute them into something more profound, sardonic or savage (like say, Rowlandson, Coe or Scarfe)? Bush is obviously an extraordinary talent; we’ll have to wait and see.

John Hurrell

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This Discussion has 6 comments.

Comment

Warren Feeney, 10:41 a.m. 25 August, 2012

Hi John
I am surprised, but I am not sure if you could have got your commentary and criticisms of Kushana Bush’s painting more wrong in this review. Bush as an ‘illustrative humourist.’ Really? Or an artist who - because she lives in Dunedin - renders the faces of her figures like those in the early work of fellow Dunedin resident Jeffery Harris? That’s the kind of tenuous connection an amateur art historian would make about an artist’s work and their influences. Based on the images accompanying this review, all I can see is some of Bush’s finest work –Surely it no coincidence that these gouache and pencil works on paper exploit the empty spaces and void of the picture plane as much as they occupy it - there is a palatable sense of a desperate, silent and never-to-be-fulfilled void that underlies the human condition in all these images. (To me, the eroticism and sexual behaviour that you cite as critical to Bush’s works only seems like evidence of this psychological abyss – rather than something critical to her iconography). I am sorry, but the premise that these images are poised somewhere not far from ‘whimsy,’ Beryl Cook or ‘sweetness’ just seems odd and decidedly untenable.

 In reply

John Hurrell, 4:22 p.m. 25 August, 2012

What's wrong with speculation, Warren? The Harris reference is feasible. As for being profound commentaries on the human condition, well they certainly amuse and their detail is enthralling, but are they the equivalent of Rowlandson or Scarfe or Sue Coe? Do they disturb and tell us some unpleasant truths about our species? I don't think so.

Zane Pocock, 12:27 a.m. 26 August, 2012

I concur with Warren here, John: you seem to have missed the boat. These pieces absolutely "disturb and tell us some unpleasant truths about our species". To take straight from the text-book, as it were: Kushana's work here demonstrates as clear as ever her portrayal of cosmopolitanism and a desperate need to embrace difference and solve conflict both in-doors and out-doors. She formulates a powerful response to the 'new exotic' and, very blatantly, racism: both of which you must admit are elements which should disturb most members of our species. To kick off: don't you find it interesting that the paintings featuring small, lonely, and conflicting/unhappy groups of people in blatantly indoor settings (i.e. bedrooms) are white and heteronormative, yet the (more interesting) groups of community and resolution involve the embracing of difference and the breaking down of 'home' boundaries?
Yes, I will concur that elements are humorous - and that's great! It adds yet another dimension to her work. But it certainly doesn't detract from the very legitimate messages that are going on.
Furthermore, the eroticism is still very much present here: dare I say it has become more interesting by not smacking you in the face. Look at The Conjurer (incorrectly labelled in the slideshow - it's the one with the lobster). In this work, we have undefined gender norms, an unclear in/out-door setting, diverse community, references to Persian miniatures to accentuate the theme of the New Exotic (Western commodification of difference), a play on enslavement, etc... But on second glance we find the central figure receiving oral sex! How great is this hidden eroticism!?!

On another note: I'm new to EyeContact and I must commend you on providing a great setting for the debate of visual art in New Zealand. What an initiative!

John Hurrell, 8:08 a.m. 26 August, 2012

Thanks for your supportive comments Zane.
Re the unovert (erm...covert) eroticism you speak of, in some ways I agree with you. I have lately noticed a trick she does that devious advertisement designers occasionally exploit on hoardings - that of deliberate compositional confusion that creates 'filthy' perceptual interpretations. Limbs are ambiguously positioned so that from a distance protagonists seem to be straddling or groping each other. You look again and see that spatially (and literally) it is not actually the case. Very clever and very mischievous.

Reply to this thread

Tony Green, 10:18 p.m. 25 August, 2012

Nothing wrong with 'speculation', John, not 'speculation' as such, but what has J Harris to do with Kushana Bush's painting? - a poor guess - - & especially when there is
useful & comment on her work & presumably
artist-supplied information on the sources of her way of painting on
http://www.thebigidea.co.nz/connect/media-releases/2012/apr/116520-kushana-bush-ten-open-at-the-pah-homestead

 In reply

John Hurrell, 10:44 p.m. 25 August, 2012

Some of the heads (alas not among the examples on this page) seemed very similar to his. A possible hommage even.

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