Slide Show - Images (mostly) from The Illustrated History of Painting


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Taking the Piss

As a relatively young culture New Zealand has moved beyond what was once an almost exclusively outward-looking (Europe & the US) visual culture to become(sometimes reflexively so)increasingly self-referential.

That's not to say that there isn't plenty of self conscious second-guessing of home-front production and a surfeit of borrowing from international art-circuit ways, means and ends in order to publicly signal (and optically certify) an artworks viable contemporary currency.

Unfortunately, the time lapse between what's actually current (on the street, or, better yet, in the wind) and what's been prospected,written up, published and received (in both paper and electronic media) is significant. By the time a market-timing practitioner has thumbed through or mouse-clicked over - what on the face of it is touted as 'of the moment' - its time is well past and the international culture juggernaut has moved on.

Although electronic publishing has, to some smaller-than-would-be-expected degree, shortened the interval between publication and relevancy to the zeitgeist there is still a yawning gulf between the now of publication and the now of the moment.

The real practical advantage and lure of the local (a term coined by Lucy Lippard) is, that like local produce, and regional cuisine its likely to be the freshest fare available.

What some NZ young folk (and those abroad) are doing, to get around the problem of delayed delivery, perceived currency and local relevance, is quite canny - they take a tried and true international 'recipe' and substitute local ingredients for imported. You can see this art-culinary strategy at the various international big-box shows. When its done just right local ingredients eclipse, or at least zest-up, the recipe...when done badly it's a case of new wine in old skins.

I've been a guest in NZ long enough now to burp-at-table. So, just for fun, I've made an allegorical style triptych (a sort of tripartite altarpiece) which takes the piss (in what I hope is an affectionate manner) re New Zealand artworks that are reflexively about local lure.

In the same vein I've titled the little work Three Aotearoan Graces. Further description or critical exegesis would be redundant as I've tried my damndest here to be a master of the Aotearoan obvious.

Since I was just 'funin' I also allowed myself to kick up the technical realism and finish - in the past I've consciously dialed back the work's finesse as a way to keep the images' humor-bid nearer to desired low-brow sensibilities. Oddly enough by kicking up the finish the works seem all the more wonderfully stupid than they would otherwise have been. In addition I entertained what I can only describe as a disconcerting Balthusian 'semi' while painting the lifted skirts of the cray pot maiden. Unh.....!?!

David Alsop (Suite Gallery, Wellington)has the triptych and will be bringing it down to Christchurch on June 22nd with his wee group-road-show. Check the Suite news section at the Suite website for time and place of the opening.