Posts Tagged ‘New Zealand


Brett Graham and Lisa Reihana @ Fehily Contemporary

Fehily Contemporary 2011aTuesday, 21 June 2011

Brett Graham and Lisa Reihana @ Fehily Contemporary

I finally made a pilgrimage to the new space of Fehily Contemporary in Glasshouse Road, Collingwood, which is just around the corner from James Makin and Catherine Asquith. There is a large exhibition area on the ground floor, the L-shape of which is slightly reminiscent of the Tolarno Galleries. Its spacious high walls are perfectly designed for the display of contemporary art, which will be the mainstay of Fehily’s exhibition program.

Lisa Reihana Kia OraCurrently on display are works by two New Zealand artists, which showcase the gallery’s ambition to stage exhibitions not only by Australian but also international artists. Large-format photographs by Lisa Reihana, Nga Hau E Wha (Four Wind Goddesses) feature the artist’s nieces, and blend together high fashion photography with traditional Maori lore. Despite the excellent quality of these works and striking appearances of the four young women, they somewhat lack the iconicity of the Marae series, which were recently shown at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Brett Graham’s large scale wooden sculptures from the Rikuhia series, the shape of which is based on deep-sea scanners, are ornately carved with traditional Maori designs. The pieces are quite impressive due to their size and the sheer amount of work that went into them, yet I could not help but feel that they lacked the intricacy and ingenuity of Robert Bridgewater’s large scale biomorphic wooden sculptures of the late 1990s.

Brett Graham Te HokoiThere is a smaller gallery upstairs, perfect for staging intimate and small-scale exhibitions. Currently on display is a selection of works under $1,000 by gallery artists in a variety of media. Most galleries around Melbourne intermittently put together exhibitions of their lower priced artworks under the banner of ‘affordable’, ‘small treasures’, and the like. The Fehilys have picked up the idea and repackaged it as their “Young Collectors’ Program”, which displays an enviable flair for marketing and re-branding. I have to give it to the Fehilys ingenuity: instead of making one feel like a cheap-skate who can only afford to shop at the lower end of the market, they make their entry-level collectors feel a part of a special and exclusive group. The works on offer include pieces by Ash Keating, Sonia Payes, Gosia Wlodarczak, and many others.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but full or partial use is welcome with proper acknowledgement. Where applicable, images are courtesy of the artists and their galleries.]


Unnerved: Lisa Reihana

Lisa Reihana - MahuikaTuesday, 11 January 2011

Unnerved: Lisa Reihana

Among the works in the Unnerved exhibition that left the most indelible impression or me are Lisa Reihana’s (1964-) photographs from Digital Marae series. The works display a photographic excellence in the area of digital photography, and present a combination of strong character studies of her sitters and models, which are at the same time composite portraits of cultural proto- and stereotypes.

The title of the series refers to marae, meeting houses that are central to Maori community life. The installation of the photographs in a separate, almost enclosed space creates a secluded setting and a temple-like atmosphere for the contemplation of these images.

Lisa Reihana - MauiParalleling mythological traditions of other cultures, Maori ancestral deities do not occupy a definite time space and do not possess a fixed gender. Therefore, Reihana’s images of over-life-size figures represent a visual collision of historical narratives and contemporary reality, and feature iconographic signifiers of indigenous and colonial-cum-western societies. Traditional tools, elements of dress and body tattoos are placed side by side with a Le Corbusier chair, contemporary surf-board, or a historically-accurate eighteenth-Century costume.

Lisa Reihana, 'Dandy' from Digital Marae, 2007Among the most striking works in this installation are the portrait of an elderly personage in Mahuika (2001), which is taken from a low view-point, emphasizing the pathos of the image and elevating its subject physically and psychologically above the viewer; the equally monumental Maui (2007), where the powerful figure of the mythical ancestral deity is placed at the point of psychological invasion of the viewer’s space; and the unforgettable and iconic Dandy (2007), used for the cover of the exhibition catalogue, where the relief Jacquard embroideries of the model’s costume echo the traditional tattoo designs on his face.

In a similar vein to the works of other artists in this exhibition, Lisa Reihana explores New Zealand’s historically and mythologically rich cultural traditions, probes her country’s post-colonial identity, and creates new iconography for the culturally-diverse society of today.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]


Unnerved: The New Zealand Project

Yvonne ToddMonday, 10 January 2011

Unnerved: The New Zealand Project

Unnerved: The New Zealand Project is the second region-specific exhibition from the Queensland Art Gallery, currently on view at the National Gallery of Victoria. It focuses on New Zealand’s contemporary art, and includes paintings, drawings, watercolours, sculpture, photography, installation, video and performance works by such New Zealand artists as Michael Parekowai, Mark Adams, Gavin Hipkins, Lisa Reihana, Duncan Cole, Greg Semu, Yvonne Todd, John Pule, Shane Cotton, Lorene Taurerewa, and numerous others.

The exploration of New Zealand’s contemporary culture and post-colonial identity is the common thread that unites the works of disparate genres and diverse media in the show. The majority of artists in this exhibition are of Maori, Samoan and other Pacific Islanders’ descent, which informs many of the works. Their “bi-cultural” concerns as well as the underlying psychological darkness can (perhaps) only be related in this country to the works of some of our urban indigenous artists.

New Zealand’s natural, breathtaking beauty provides a wonderful source of inspiration to such landscape photographers as Mark Adams (1949-), who poetically captures in Indian Island 360* Panorama (1998/2006) an important site of historic significance. The country’s people, places, and playgrounds allowed Gavin Hipkins (1968-) to explore the country’s composite cultural identity – from high to low and everything in-between – in a complex photographic installation The Homely (1997-2000) that spans the length of three walls.

Michael Parekowhai’s (1968-) giant rabbit greets the visitors as they enter the National Gallery; it’s Disney-like cuteness belies the artist’s concern about the impact of rabbits, introduced species, on New Zealand’s environment. In a similar vein is his Acts II, which disguises tools of colonisation as a DYI die-cast plastic toy set. His black seal balancing a giant piano on the tip of its nose in The Horn of Africa echo the topographical outlines of New Zealand and reference the reputation of the North Island as a business and cultural hub, and of the South Island as a tourist attraction.

Greg Semu - Self PortraitDuncan Cole (1968-) and Shigeyuki Kihara (1975-) reprise in their works popular 19th-Century photographs of New Zealand’s “ethnographic specimens”, replacing them with a cast of contemporary characters, which are representative of the “new tribes” within the present-day street culture. Greg Semu’s (1971-) self-portraits explore traditional Maori body tattoos, pe’a, in the context of the contemporary male nude photography.

Western European culture and traditional iconographies of Maori, Samoa, and other Pacific Island groups continue to collide in paintings by John Pule (1962-) and Shane Cotton (1964-); while the most exquisite ink drawings of Lorene Taurerewa (1961-), Psychopompe, pick up the dark psychological undertones which are prevalent throughout the exhibition, including Yvonne Todd’s (1973-) exquisite portrait photographs that ruminate about  the universality of America-centric dreams of ideal beauty and white weddings, or Anne Noble’s (1954-) “mutilations” of her daughter’s tongue.

[© Eugene Barilo von Reisberg 2011. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is WELCOME with the full and proper acknowledgment]

Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

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