John Hurrell – 14 September, 2021
I love sauntering around galleries and discovering art (known or unknown) in those spaces, but I'm far away from Wellington and so obviously the virtual opportunity is way better than no interaction at all. A whole lot better, even though it is obviously not perfect. Lockdown and what you are looking at now are providing a technically wondrous ‘taste,' an approximation.
Tai Moana Tai Tangata
Curated by Anna-Marie White
The above link enables you to explore (virtually—by manipulating your cursor and mouse) the remarkable Brett Graham show that was on at the Govett Brewster (Dec 2020 - May 2021), and which is now about to be bodily revisitable at City Gallery in a different arrangement, with Wellington’s lockdown recently moving to Level 2.
We all know that the virtual experience is nothing like the in-person experience of a perambulating gallery visitor who has come to the Govett. Being seated, looking through a screen, clicking on floorplans or wall labels, and ‘turning’ with your mouse—all requires a later process of data translation: cogitating on what you are looking at.
The perspectival distortions and spatial compression are obvious, and there is no instant body /art encounter where you comprehend the contents of an optically explored space immediately. There is no proprioception equivalent for example. No extended spatial sensation. You won’t get puffed, there’s nothing muscular—even when you are going up a staircase or trying to examine its artwork carpet.
I love sauntering around galleries and discovering art (known or unknown) in those spaces, but I’m far away from Wellington and so obviously the virtual opportunity is way better than no interaction at all. A whole lot better, even though it is obviously not perfect. Lockdown and what you are looking at now are providing a technically wondrous ‘taste’—but only an approximation—via which you can ‘see’ Brett Graham‘s five exciting, architecturally imposing sculptures and three short panoramic films.
Here is a check list to help your mouse manoeuvre your desktop around the eight works.
The sculptures are:
1. Maungārongo ki te Whenua, Maungārongo ki te Tangata
3. Cease Tide of Wrong Doing, Taiporohēnui
4. Grande Folly Egmont
5. Purutapu Pōuriuri (Black Shroud)
And the four and a half minute films:
1. Te Namu
Hanahiva Rose and Reuben Friend’s articles below are excellent introductions, sorely needed because firstly the floorplan of the gallery is quite confusing (the venue being, after all, originally a multi-floored picture theatre) and it is difficult to figure out the spatial (and conceptual) relationships between the eight works. Secondly, the virtual technology compresses and elongates the visual experience. It optically messes with ‘the gallery air’, distorts the viewing sensation, stretches and squeezes the limitations of your bodily encounter. While the works are ‘monumental’ it is hard to work out online precisely how much so.
Visiting the show in Wellington will let you enjoy at first hand the detail (planar surface relief or rendered), the overall sensuality, authentic spatial relationships and impressive scale—all found in wonderfully articulated artworks that are greatly enriched by White and Graham’s informative wall labels. As you’d expect with Graham, the work is steeped in Taranaki and Tainui history and packed with evocative, brooding, interconnected, poetic metaphor.
If you happen to live within cooee of this show, and have easy access, I’m profoundly envious.