Andrew Paul Wood – 18 July, 2012
Parkes' canvasses have morphed into something resembling the abandoned mattresses of an orgy in riotously bright colours - blues, purples and orange, but with the familiar saggy bagginess of the rest of her oeuvre. Calder's dripped blobs of house paint in sour limes and olive greens, blacks and solitary cyan have dried into flaccid skins hung on an armature like washing on a line.
Miranda Parkes and Helen Calder
Nice to Meet You
27 June - 15 July 2012
Dog Park is a non-profit art project space that opened in June this year and looks set to fill the gap left by the closure of the ABC project space which closed in February. It received initial funding from Creative New Zealand’s emergency Response Grant and it’s nice to know it’s being supported by the business community with building supplies from PlaceMakers Riccarton and the essential refreshments by Sacred Hill Wines. Good on them. Dog Park is a response to the venue shortages following the Christchurch earthquakes, and embraces the challenges of contemporary and interdisciplinary art. A book shop is in the works.
Their first show, Nice to Meet You was a collaboration between two Canterbury artists known for their rethinking of painting as a spatial medium, Miranda Parkes and Helen Calder. Parkes is of course best known for her brightly keyed, bunched and ruched canvases and Calder for her continuous drip paintings that meddle with the illusion of process.
Nice to Meet You continues the exploration of painting’s explosion into the gallery space. Theorists like Gustavo Fares of Lawrence University have often tried to apply Rosalind Krauss’ “expanded field” to painting, usually citing the addition of movement, performance or three-dimensionality - but perhaps they would have been better off leaving it to the artists. Lucio Fontana was already investigating “spatialism” in the late 1940s and incorporating gesture and performance with slashing and scorching to neutralise the illusionary window of painting. Robert Rauschenberg was making his “combines” in the 1950s and Frank Stella started producing his “shaped canvases” in the 1960s. During his short career, Yves Klein was putting his name brand shade of vivid aquamarine everywhere and on everything. Most recently Jessica Stockholder, Katharina Grosse and New Zealand’s Judy Millar have incorporated architectural elements so that painting may be experienced by being walked around or through - somewhat like Baroque architecture or Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk.
Parkes has long conflated pictorial and architectural space in her works, and in Nice to Meet You we see Calder working with colour in three-dimensional space in a much more expansive way than in earlier experiments. It is very much colour which harmonises the contributions of the two artists. Parkes’ canvasses have morphed into something resembling the abandoned mattresses of an orgy in riotously bright colours - blues, purples and orange, but with the familiar saggy bagginess of the rest of her oeuvre. Calder’s dripped blobs of house paint in sour limes and olive greens, blacks and solitary cyan have dried into flaccid skins hung on an armature like washing on a line.
For me there is a sense of abandonment, and of a kind of allusive domesticity, but this is probably reading far too much into abstract work. The relaxed and non-rigid materials and the deceptive casual randomness of their appearance allow the two elements to have a conversation, but there is also a distance - two distinct personalities at work. This sideways abject note brings in a feminist note, and indeed there are strong echoes of the works of Eva Hesse and the “cells” of Louise Bourgeois - though without Bourgeois’ overwhelming air of fear and pain. The one-off orange note in Parkes’ Claes Oldenburg-does-Tony Smith installation chimes with the one-off cyan blue Resene drip in Calder’s work - contrasting colours on the colour wheel. I think it might have been even more interesting if the two separate components interacted physically as well as visually, just to see what synergies would occur.
Andrew Paul Wood