John Hurrell – 20 August, 2019
I had forgotten about Fiona Clark's ‘musclemen' photographs taken in Sydney and Auckland in 1980. They have an emotional and a cerebral content, often showing the anxiety on the faces of the body-building contestants, but also presenting a sort of caricature of masculinity, looking at the performative: a posing process where a heightened exposure of worked-on muscles is intensified (to be admired or assessed) and then—after a brief duration—released.
Dan Arps and Fiona Clark
Fiona Clark and Dan Arps
31 July - 31 August 2019
I was quite surprised when I noticed these two (quite different) artists being put together like this, and a bit suspicious of bland gallery marketing, but on seeing the show: the combination works well. I didn’t expect it.
I had forgotten about Fiona Clark’s ‘musclemen’ photographs taken in Sydney and Auckland in 1980. They have an emotional and a cerebral content, often showing the anxiety on the faces of the body-building contestants, but also presenting a sort of caricature of masculinity (whatever that is), looking at the performative: a posing process where a heightened exposure of worked-on muscles is intensified (to be admired or assessed) and then—after a brief duration—released. Her fourteen coloured indoor images are lined up on the long end wall opposite the windows.
Her project fits in well with Dan Arps’ sculptures and paintings (in the central ground-floor space) which have a processual element, an interest in time and sequential (casting) procedure—plus a level of cultivated chaos not found in Clark.
Clark’s photographs illustrate control from both artist and depicted subject, while Arps is more about juxtaposing unexpected elements, and entertaining through surprise by playing with generic art conventions—privileging ‘low’ art sources over ‘high’; ‘rubbish’ over ‘masterpieces’; off-cuts over designed shape; children’s art over adults’; plinths (which are really furtive four-sided paintings) over sculptures from which they seem to be inseparable anyway; the ‘unruly’ over the ‘elegant’; the ‘unfinished’ over the ‘refined’. Much of this undermining is in the tradition of the Gambia Castle group he used to be part of.
With Clark and her documented flexing competitors there is the heightened moment of perfection—the desired zenith of achievement—whereas for Arps what he (often but not always) presents is anything but: a hostility to normative aspirations of beauty (it goes beyond Duchampian indifference); a reversal of striving; a love of process; a rejection of any cognisance of a peak that is wished for; no hoped-for pinnacle to be attained.
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