John Hurrell – 17 January, 2017
The weights of these small masses are hard to second guess. They often tax your arm muscles more than anticipated (that is the point: the eye can't provide prerequisite information because the forms often are not simple) - and sometimes colourful streaks of brown appear in the metal. The ‘squishy' shapes are often peculiar and funny, mimicking mechanics' or carpenter tools, painting hanging hooks, bangles, rings, barbells and knuckledusters.
Grips, slips, of space, a memory
12 November 2016 - 26 February 2017
After recently presenting her bronze sculptures in last year’s New Perspective‘s show at Artspace (a complicated installation with spread around freestanding plinths and bright green walls), Hannah Valentine’s current show at Te Tuhi has a different approach. The metal objects are now linked to the ‘Drawing Wall’ to which the blue foam covered platforms (on which they rest) are attached: three rows of ten. The sculptures are meant to be carried around the different galleries, as long as they in the end are returned to that wall.
Stimulated by the portable sculptures of Franz West and some of the radical ideas of Franz Erhard Walther, Valentine’s ‘conservative’ (by way of cast bronze) sculptures line up on a tidy grid of blue-cushioned, projecting square platforms. A few of the cast forms look geometrically pristine and industrial. Most however are knobbly and organic, the casting clay manually kneaded, pulled, twisted, squeezed and stretched - and prodded by finger tips or pressed into palms.
The weights of these small masses are hard to second guess. They often tax your arm muscles more than anticipated (that is the point: the eye can’t provide prerequisite information because the forms often are not simple) - and sometimes colourful streaks of brown appear in the metal. The ‘squishy’ shapes are often peculiar and funny, mimicking mechanics’ or carpenter tools, painting hanging hooks, bangles, rings, barbells and knuckledusters.
With the white wall and compressed blue foam the colour blue has quite a presence in the static component of this installation, and if the bronzes are removed, as small hovering fields, the platforms can be linked to the brilliant writings of William H. Gass and Maggie Nelson - because of the associations and uses of that hue. The blue has a sacramental quality. It is almost Kleinian, but with an added whiff of the ecclesiastical and ritualistic: accentuated by the similarities of bronze with gold. There is a hint of aristocratic opulence.
With Valentine’s method here, the sculptures are not permanently stationary (locked in one location) but accessories that migrate around the venue, visible when clutched by moving visitors. They abandon the projecting blue grid painting on the wall and become jewellery to be worn (looped over fingers or arms); toys to be hooked onto belts or edges of clothing; bonelike units to be peered through like glasses. Once picked up, these items are too heavy to be ignored or forgotten about.
Thus they become kinetic objects connected to vertical human forms moving horizontally. Avoiding the grotesquely large, they are subtle. Not immediately apparent. Old fashioned but innovative.