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JH

Bad Education

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Natasha Matila-Smith (all 2018, poly-velvet blend, spray paint):  The Scent of You Stays With Me; His Lips Pink and Swollen; Spaghetti, Alone. Still from Louisa Afoa, Untitled, video, 8:46 minutes, looped, 2018

Here four young women artists ‘of colour' present visual works and a text, articulating various commonalities and differences via video, photographic installation, poetry stencilled into canvas and a published room sheet. Ostensibly autobiographical, themes of loneliness, romantic rejection, the search for happiness, low self-esteem, body shape anxiety etc. dominate.

Auckland

 

Louisa Afoa, Natasha Matila-Smith, Molly Rangiwai-McHale, Faith Wilson
Between You and Me

 

19 April - 1 June 2018

In this small show in St Paul St’s Gallery Two, four young women artists ‘of colour’ present visual works and a text, articulating various commonalities and differences via video, photographic installation, poetry stencilled into canvas and a published room sheet. Faith Wilson  tangentially (but empathetically) comments on an aspect of the gallery projects of her three colleagues while participating as an exhibitor herself as invited text provider. Ostensibly autobiographical (with no ideational distance seemingly between creator and artwork), themes of loneliness, romantic rejection, the search for happiness, low self-esteem, body shape anxiety etc. dominate.

The contributions interact well. Natasha Matila Smith‘s four banners run through the middle of the space. They present what seems to be confessional or diaristic prose, divided up via line breaks so it becomes easier-to-absorb poetry that dwells on private social frustrations and the difficulties of prolonged solitude—and work successfully within the suspended poly-velvet format. The spray painted, stencilled letters have a lovely looseness as they are not regimented within narrowly confining horizontal lines.

Molly Rangiwai-McHale‘s three grey sweatshirts have the word ‘loved’ embroidered underneath their necklines. Installed across a corner, their spread-out arms have rippling contours along their upper edges, creating a sense of excited anticipation and joy; a nervous energy of longed-for fulfilment; a subtle exuberance.

Louisa Afoa‘s wall installation Blue Clam alludes to frustrated sexuality and conflicted attitudes to body shape, with her photographic self portrait (referencing Botticelli‘s The Birth of Venus) positioned over colourful nursery wallpaper. A profoundly interesting work in its comparison between 21st century Pacific culture and 15th century Italian, Blue Clam has a gravitas (cleverly mingled with vulgarity) that the jump-edited, indulgent and repetitious Untitled video of the artist applying make-up lacks.

Available online, Faith Wilson’s essay discusses her “miseducation” while growing up in Aotearoa dominated by colonial narratives that distanced her from her ‘Samoanness’. Her text emphasises her desire to “define her own destiny”, and to become proud of her heritage by identifying with articulate musical inspirations like Rihanna, Beyoncé, Sza and Lauryn Hill, whose lyrics are copiously quoted throughout.

There is a satisfying chemistry percolating throughout this very successful show. The four contributors work tightly together to create overlapping parallel resonances clustered around an easy-to-grasp, conceptual (but highly emotional) core.

John Hurrell

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