Claire Mabey – 28 February, 2014
Red and blood, red and energy, red and danger, red and temptation. 'Qualia' teases the idea of movement (the frame with wheels versus the frame without). Imagine if 'Qualia' was wheeled into the Wellington wind, or if a few of the paint strips were pushed a little and set in motion. It also teases out the idea of colour as tangible form, as items from the everyday familiar - the paint is thick, fat and glossy in a way reminiscent of vinyl, and hanging like drying pasta, or pancetta.
February 19 - March 15 2014
Only Wellington, only Wellington can start a day with a bullying wind, then threaten rain while confusing matters with sticky humidity before its final, dramatic drop in temperature as the southerly arrives and pushes the warmth away but revealing a fine, bright sky.
I got up to Enjoy as the sun arrived. Helen Calder‘s Qualia 760 - 620λ glistened in it - looking poised to come to life in the floor-boarded, clean villa. I also encountered Qualia amid festival fever - New Zealand Festival has just started and the atmosphere charged with art, artists and audiences - and amid one of Wellington’s sublime but erratic heat waves. I was feeling warmed by it all.
Approaching art is, for me, always a subjective experience. Viewer responses are always coloured by the directives of a gallery context and other collective primers (education is another), but essentially the first and immediate responses to an art work is about the intricate and unique catalogue of experience and thought processes that makes up an individual. Calder is exploring the effect of colour on both the collective and on the individual in this work. Red is presented in long pieces of commercial paint that range from the lowest frequency of red to red/orange that is able to be seen by a human’s eye.
After colour, comes form: tongues immediately came to mind. The paint is set and hung like ribbons, glossy and resting over two separate metal frames - one to the left, against the wall; the other in the middle of the room facing the viewer as you enter. There is a terrific tension created between the two frames - a sense of energy about to be released. The central rack is on wheels and could be spun around the room, the lashings of paint swaying like carcasses in an abattoir.
Red and blood, red and energy, red and danger, red and temptation. Qualia teases the idea of movement (the frame with wheels versus the frame without). Imagine if Qualia was wheeled into the Wellington wind, or if a few of the paint strips were pushed a little and set in motion. It also teases out the idea of colour as tangible form, as items from the everyday familiar - the paint is thick, fat and glossy in a way reminiscent of vinyl, and hanging like drying pasta, or pancetta.
The third frame in the room is the window. Once you’ve taken in the swath of red in the room, you’re naturally drawn outside as your eye has a new sensitivity to warmth, to red. The view from the generous window of the gallery is one full of colour. Red cars, red signs - for parking, for a sale, for food, for beds. Even further on, the complete impression of Qualia came after I left the room and the gallery and stepped outside. Red leapt into view from every layer of the city - from the incidental (clothing) to the deliberate (advertising). There is a science here, something common to all human experience of colour, but there is also a subjective experience, and the tension between the two, which is perfectly packaged by Qualia.
This exhibition is fun. It is fun to catalogue the list of associations that colour, form and composition can evoke, and fun to compare one person’s experience with another. Just like the name of the work Qualia (derived from the Latin word, quale, meaning ‘what kind’ - who knew?), this exhibition is both familiar and dare I use the word, quirky, and plays on the mind’s eye long after you’ve stepped back onto Cuba Street and your refreshed perceptions of all the possibilities, and the science, of colour.