John Hurrell – 10 April, 2014
Sometimes in the Herald Theatre the density of the suspended tangramlike forms changes (the distance between them alters), or the shapes become shredded like confetti, or the background tone slyly flips to its opposite. In Peach Pitt on the other hand, the compositional spacing is quite regular so that the clustered angular forms swirl against a consistently white background, looping in a long flickering line like a fast-moving dancer.
Murals in Aotea Centre and K’Rd diner
These two new recently completed, grey and white Jeena Shin murals in Aotea Centre and Karangahape Road are an exciting development for downtown Auckland and should generate much excitement for lovers of contemporary art. One encloses a theatre foyer, exploiting the walls around the entrance, ticket office, lifts and other facilities; the other is in a cafe and along one long wall only. Its images here don’t show the high tables and bar stools.
With these murals inside a theatre foyer and a diner, there are recording problems that right at the start - when looking at online documentary imagery - need special acknowledgement. Much depends on the lens in the camera, in terms of the spatial ambience: the sense of bending planes and/or expansion or compression between opposite walls - or floor and ceiling. The final image can be very different from the bodily experience (inside buildings and out, with or without furniture).
The other dilemma is the illumination of the documented artwork, depending on the weather conditions (or time of day) if lit via windows or open doors, or (if not ‘natural’) the type of lighting in the space - the effects of the bulbs used on white surfaces: be they radiant washes starkwhite pure, bluey cool or yellowy warm.
My point is that this art needs to be checked out first hand. You need to experience the work directly in the gallery space without the assistance of EyeContact mediation, although that will still occur of course - via your memory of what you’ve just read and seen here.
In both the NZ Herald Theatre and Peach Pitt diner Shin uses tumbling angular motifs that look like overlapping sheets of intricately cut paper, falling en masse like autumn leaves. Sometimes in the Herald Theatre the density of the suspended tangramlike forms changes (the distance between them alters), or the shapes become shredded like confetti, or the background tone slyly flips to its opposite. In Peach Pitt on the other hand, the compositional spacing is quite regular so that the clustered angular forms swirl against a consistently white background, looping in a long flickering line like a fast-moving dancer.
Curiously these two grey and white geometric murals are different in other ways too. The spaces are totally dissimilar, the Herald’s being expansively wide with a mostly dark background, the Peach Pitt’s narrow with a pale wall. The theatre - with its pronounced divisions into wall sections - has more variety of form, consisting largely of overlapping triangles fluttering down from a white ceiling to a grey floor with white skirting board and columns. Its compositional and planar configurations are much more complex, allowing Shin to gradually change background when corners are turned, or to use dappled optical effects reminiscent of a forest.
In the confined space of Peach Pitt most of your experience of the mural is looking from one side, at a skewed angle. This sideways viewing tends to condense grey shapes that are spread apart on the white wall when viewed frontally, accentuating and intensifying negative spaces between the more complex dominant motifs. These are not all triangular. Some are quadrilateral, others are like disintegrating ribbons, and a few are tiny triangles or slivers eating away at the edges of much bigger forms. Yet there is a dominant composition, a logical pattern, a cohesive structure applied to the whole wall.
In the Herald Theatre foyer Shin’s project (called Motus, commissioned by THE EDGE and curated by Kelly Carmichael) excites because of its restless inventiveness and unpredictability. Her glowing white forms interact with moving viewers’ bodies with impact, creating a surprisingly intimate, stroboscopic ambience that is reminiscent of naturally claustrophobic settings like forests and water-reflected caves. Such a complex architectural interior, achieved via celebratory painted shape subtly modifying functional form, demonstrates Shin’s skilled manipulation of light and space - a wonderful tonal treat offered to Auckland’s theatre and gallery visiting communities.