John Hurrell – 13 February, 2015
Using the high stud and columns of Starkwhite's large gallery, Basher presents his paintings of alternating vertical bands within an installation that refers to any large department store that might sell luxury products, or an arcade, as well as to a bachelor's bedroom. It has many affinities to his sardonic installation in 'Freedom Farmers' at Auckland Art Gallery a couple of years ago - but this time behind the reflective, quasi-mirror vitrine glass there are no colour co-ordinated sex gels or liquor products, only some hair colouring and CDs on macrocapa blocks.
3 February - 7 March 2015
Looking at Martin Basher‘s title, Jizzy Velvet, ‘jizzy’ refers to jissom, the American slang for semen, alluding to fetish items like Fiona Pardington’s 1994 masterpiece, Christopher - with its ejaculate squirted onto a fur rug. In other words, the power of attraction within certain art works that magnetically draws in buyers (like shoe fetishists to high heels) is the topic of this show: the shimmering, blinding reflection of desire.
Using the high stud and columns of Starkwhite’s large gallery, Basher presents his ‘alluring’ paintings of alternating vertical bands within an installation that refers to any large department store that might sell luxury products, or an arcade, as well as to a bachelor’s bedroom. It has many affinities to his sardonic installation in Freedom Farmers at Auckland Art Gallery a couple of years ago - but this time behind the reflective, quasi-mirror vitrine glass there are no colour co-ordinated sex gels or liquor products, only some hair colouring and CDs on macrocapa blocks. Traversing the space are beams of wood, black cushions, hides on the floor beneath paintings, and ‘wood grain’ wrapping paper instead.
With the canvas paintings and cardboard collages that line the walls, we see a dominant palette of black, white and grey (very little violet), pitched to ‘mature’ graying visitors searching for lost youth and dignity (through hair dye) in their spending prime. The painting is (as is usual with Basher) beautifully crafted, with a detectable stroked on grain that seems to reference the wood. The black and white pelts on the floor and sweet-smelling wood contextually incorporate the paintings to make them ‘natural’ - as if the artist somehow found them under some firs in a remote alpine glen.
These canvas and cardboard works are mixed up to draw out qualities of ‘pre-planned, ordered ‘slickness’ and ‘wild spontaneity’ in their juxtaposition, for the latter could be fields of grass or scattered sticks. The odd thing is that compositionally the looser collage works somehow remind me of some of the brilliant fantastical watercolours of the bipolar Victorian miniaturist and patricide Richard Dadd (1817-1886). All those overlapping leafy blades and stems, even though they are mostly diagonal.
With the cardboard works Basher is exploring the space between the curved shimmering ‘metallic’ lines nearest the viewer and the distant flat planar daubs of darker paint on the other side. The separation is quite pronounced: a deep field is implied; unlike the shallower, nuanced, alternating egg-slicing bands explored within the much tidier canvases.
Basher has discovered something quite exciting with these cardboard works, and they probably deserve to be shown separately from the pristine canvases because the visceral moods the two types generate are so different. There is so much happening in this show that sorting through the varieties of image construction, beyond the politics of the installation itself, in order to analyse the procedures with materials, obviously reaps viewing and thinking benefits. One discovers that the collages are not as objectlike as the others, being more overtly about looking through and not so much at. Like the tinted (but reflecting) vertical glass sheets and wooden pillars around them.