John Hurrell – 19 February, 2013
When decoded, Basher's paintings are distinctive because of their purple/black/white symbolic colour combination (based on wrapping paper and packaging for luxury items), and vertical stripes (read prison bars) of thwarted yet unrelenting desire. This is blended with shimmering horizontal or diagonal flashes of blinding light that showcase commodification.
4 February - 2 March 2013
This is one of those shows where you mentally look at yourself looking at the exhibition. It doesn’t so much slap you on the jowls for being there as subvert your possible motivations for being in the building. Theoretically it aspires to taint any rumblings of ‘the will to possess’.
Martin Basher has a history of exhibitions critiquing consumerism and capitalism’s extolling of purchasable commodities, especially when accompanied by various mechanisms of desire such as ‘romance’, ‘tourism’, ‘fashion’ and of course ‘art’. It’s a double flipflopping game because his artworks openly perpetuate the same system (he’s keen to sell his art) except that they include a self-reflexive twist. There is a built in hesitancy about commmercial transaction - and this is substantiated by its cleverly ambiguous title, To Be Confimed.
When decoded, his paintings are distinctive because of their purple/black/white symbolic colour combination (based on wrapping paper and packaging for luxury items), and vertical stripes (read prison bars) of thwarted yet unrelenting desire. This is blended with shimmering horizontal or diagonal flashes of blinding light (the glare is exacerbated in this exhibition) that showcase commodification and prevent thinking about any alternative conceptual or political structure.
Basher’s exhibition consists of six canvases (in two sizes) and in the centre of the space, a high ‘fence’ of fluorescent tubes held up by stands - grouped close together nearest the window, and spreading more and more apart towards the office - a curving barrier with a definite back and a front. You circumnavigate the large space examining and comparing tones of supporting wall, metal brackets and brushed, masked paint (mixed colour and reflective sheen) - peering across, through and around tubular or flat columns and thinking about light more than capitalism. Or the Light of Reason. Or perhaps the rhythmical vertical vectors of the Starkwhite architecture. Columns and staircase especially.
The brackets of the fluorescent tubes, both front and backs, hold interest here with their intricacy, as do the holes for slipping over screw-heads for attaching to the wall, the types of cap on the tube ends, and the varieties of wire used. The variations of very pale gray get compared with contrasting tones, and how they compress or expand the perceived dimensions of the space.
Of the five aluminium stands supporting the lights, the two nearest the window are identical in their spacing while the other three gradually increase the distances between tubes. The result is that from outside the entrance the line looks solid and more like a block. The stands are weighed down by small but heavy black camera bags and these are balanced tonally on the other side of the installation by flat seats.
These black items intrude a little, for the polemics of the show (the illumination not only of product but of gallery visitor) might have been improved without them - they make the floor a bit busy and compositionally indecisive. However the intense power of the bright light, its interaction horizontally with the vertical Walterslike reversing of painted black and white bands, makes the show quite extraordinary in its impact. While it could be argued that this work shouldn’t be in the marketplace at all and that Basher is speaking with both sides of his mouth at once, it organises an intriguing array of bodily and mental sensations that needs to be experienced.
GRACE BUTLER MEMORIAL FOUNDATION AWARD AT ARA
3 Month Studio Residency for an Artist with an Association with Canterbury
Two Rooms presents a program of residencies and projects
by leading international and New Zealand contemporary artists.