John Hurrell – 5 February, 2012
Despite the exuberantly theatrical nature of such reflective materials this show is carefully controlled, the selected elements in the two rooms being placed with considered precision.
Curated by Andrew Clifford
20 January - 3 March 2012
In this mini-survey that Andrew Clifford has put together of Reuben Paterson works, we see Paterson characteristically using on supports such as canvas stretchers, gourds, shoes and gallery walls, a range of sensually evanescent or shimmering materials. These extend from glitter and diamond dust to mylar foil, sequins and shimmer discs, with the intended allusions including Maori cosmologies with primal light and infinite darkness, personal whakapapa delineated through op art patterns, treated kowhaiwhai designs, celebratory gestures of queer solidarity and feral (but righteous) anger.
Despite the exuberantly theatrical nature of such reflective materials this show is carefully controlled, the selected elements in the two rooms being placed with considered precision. The central gallery in the building’s foyer has a gorgeous dome that in the afternoon pours in the light, and this Paterson exploits with his draping of a huge silver mylar sheet down the side of a descending staircase. The contents of the space are seen in reflected, shredded and rumpled fragments.
Three nearby paintings have colourful streamers, confetti, glitter, foil and aerosol string scattered onto their sticky varnished surfaces, as if resulting from a cathartic and spontaneous reaction to the disciplined delineation of complex shape present in a kaleidoscopic painting like the black and silver Nigh, placed opposite the foil. It looks like self replicating fractals sprouting out of starry Christmas wrapping paper, once radiating from a central axis, but now divided up and broken.
In Gallery One the focus is on a long reconfigured work of five lined up square panels: four from the much huger 16 panel kowhaiwhai and fabric design work Whakapapa: Get down on your Knees, the fifth, Estrous, a stern and determined tiger that is taken from a blanket design. The sparkling beast looks quite at ease surrounded by the different ‘updated’ pairs of Maori rafter motifs and seventies curtain fabric. Originally with other rendered animals in a Gow Langsford show it was an expression of gay anger but here in this new context its decorative origins are more apparent.
The included animated video of black and white kaleidoscopic morphing forms is part of a development of the op art work Paterson did for SCAPE on a terrace at Mona Vale homestead in 2004. The variation in Bottled Lightning, Te Pūtahitanga ō Rehua appears to be bubbling up as if in a well, but it is not particularly striking as a sculpture and I think works better as a projected video in a darkened room, as in an Adam show of wall works Tina Barton organised a couple of years ago. Perhaps it should have gone into the gallery where the Christine Hellyar exhibition currently is - as a moving image installation.
In my view the highlight of the show is the pair of decorated gourd clusters hanging from plaited cotton cords attached to the wall. These groups (6 and 9 gourds each) demonstrate two types of vegetable shape (elongated ‘pear’, and ‘double-apple’) and two types of surface covering (sequin and shimmer disc). Nearby is a related item, a toppled-over Perspex box of glittered-covered dancing shoes, sneakers and platform soles, this extraordinary looking footwear (35 pairs) spilling out over the floor.
I really enjoy the formal inventiveness of the suspended gourds, the way the fruit shapes cling together - the way also their fecund massed forms stay spread apart - and the contrasts of flickering metallic chroma involved. They fit in with the exhibition’s title and there is a nice paradox that a portable hollowed (decorated) fruit normally used as a container here becomes a conveyor of fleeting surface sensation, an exploiter of outer instead of inner properties - a trope by virtue of its visible skin.