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JH

High Country Bollywood

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Bepen Bhana, Postcards from the Edge, at Te Tuhi. Bepen Bhana, Postcards from the Edge, at Te Tuhi. Bepen Bhana, Deepika Me Akshay i Kura Tawhiti /Deepika Aur Akshay Kila Pahada par (Deepika and Akshay at Castle Hill), oil on canvas, 1200 x 1800 mm Bepen Bhana, Aishwarya Me Shahruth i Te Roto o Tekapo / Aishwarya Aur Shahruth Jhila Tekapo par (Aishwarya and Shahruth at Lake Tekapo), oil on canvas, 1200 x 1800 mm Bepen Bhana, Postcards from the Edge, at Te Tuhi. Bepen Bhana, Akshay Me Katrina i te Wairere i Piopiotahi / Akshay Aur Katrina Milford Avaza Jaia Prapata par (Akshay and Katrina in Milford Sound Waterfall), oil on canvas, 1200 x 1800 mm Bepen Bhana, Akshay Me Katrina i te Wairere i Piopiotahi / Akshay Aur Katrina Milford Avaza Jaia Prapata par (Akshay and Katrina in Milford Sound Waterfall), oil on canvas, 1200 x 1800 mm Bepen Bhana, Aishwarya Me Abhisnek i Nga Tiritiri-o-te-Moana / Aishwarya Aur Abhishek Yaya Daksini Alpsa par (Aishwarya and Abhishek in the Southern Alps), oil on canvas, 1200 x 1800 mm Bepen Bhana, Salman Me Preity i Aoraki / Salman Au Preity Aoraki / Parvata Bavaraci par (Salman and Preity at Aoraki /Mount Cook), oil on canvas, 1200 x 1800 mm Bepen Bhana, Postcards from the Edge, at Te Tuhi. Bepen Bhana, Shahid Me Priyanka i Te Taheke Hukahuka / Shahid Aur Priyanka Huka Jaiaprappata par (Shahid and Priyanka at Huka Falls), oil on canvas, 1200 x 1800 mm

So what if these pictures were not painted but actual glossy, blown up, photographic film stills. Or even faked Photoshopped film stills based on (like these paintings), posters and postcards: blended together and then printed on paper or plastic. There are questions of craft here, of manual dexterity and drawing - plus qualities of surface, sheen and smell - associated with painting. Would anything be lost?

Pakuranga

 

Bepen Bhana
Postcards from the Edge

 

4 May - 29 September 2013

I have only seen Bepen Bhana‘s work once before, and that was a set of billboards he made for the Te Tuhi Reeves Rd artist hoarding site, almost two years ago - so this current show surprised me. He’s still looking at marketable, very beautiful, bodies, but they are now fully clothed, with celebrity faces added, and (most importantly) with touristy New Zealand landscapes incorporated as backdrops. These lush oil paintings present imagined movie stills inspired by a strategy by Tourism New Zealand to have our scenic hotspots incorporated in romantic Bollywood films, by way of packages offered Mumbai companies planning film shoots.

The six iconic tourist sites here (Lake Tekapo, Aoraki [Mt.Cook], Milford Sound waterfall, Castle Hill Basin, Southern Alps, and Huka Falls) are also part of this country’s art history. Without the foregrounding glamorous couples, the images could be straight out of the Kelliher Art Prize. With their embracing and clinching these representations are unabashedly extolling the values of romantic heterosexual love. There is no poststructuralist critiquing here of global consumerism, the nuclear family, or the blissfully paired prosperous subjects, unlike say the acerbic imagery you might get with an artist like Martin Basher. These images are pitched at believers.

What if these pictures were not painted but actual glossy, blown up, photographic film stills. Or even faked Photoshopped film stills based on (like these paintings) posters and postcards: blended together and then printed on paper or plastic. Would anything be lost?

Obviously there are questions of craft here, of manual dexterity and drawing - plus qualities of surface, sheen and smell - associated with painting, quite a different tradition from photography.

Once there was greater financial investment in the construction of paintings, but now that has changed. It is currently much cheaper to make a painting than to make an equivalently sized photograph. Even so, a set of six large photographs might have been better.

Why you might ask?

Well without any fine art (painting) baggage, such scenic/portrait reproductions would have a greater focus, linking film narrative more closely with tourist postcards. The obvious promotion of love and marriage here is very different from some of the paintings of couples (like Mr and Mrs Andrews) as found for example in the work of Thomas Gainsborough of two hundred and sixty years ago. The image is not about property, social status or economic partnerships, but more about engendering of desire, bodily self-esteem, artificial juxtapositions (with attendant ironic humour) - and, of course, product placement.

John Hurrell

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