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Thomson @ Titirangi & Arch Hill

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Installation view of etchings in Elizabeth Thomson's Cellular Memory in Gallery Four of Te Uru's top floor. Photo by Sam Hartnett, courtesy Te Uru. Elizabeth Thomson, Lateral series -- Tracking / String harvest, 2022, cast vinyl, lacquer on contoured and shaped wood panel. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Te Uru. Elizabeth Thomson, Pūrēhua, Koromiko Rd, 2022, cast bronze, etch prime, Flashe, electrostatic application of nylon fibre over aqueous or epoxy adhesive, hand painted with acrylic and permanent light fast inks. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy Te Uru. Elizabeth Thomson, Pūrēhua, Koromiko Rd, 2022, detail, cast bronze, etch prime, Flashe, electrostatic application of nylon fibre over aqueous or epoxy adhesive, hand painted with acrylic and permanent light fast inks. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy Te Uru. Elizabeth Thomson, Red Shift, as installed in Te Uru's top floor Gallery Five. The five large spiky glass stars change from clear to red to clear as you walk past. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Te Uru. Elizabeth Thomson, Ghosts III, 2017, nylon flock, water-based adhesive, cast vinyl film, lacquer on contoured and shaped wood panel. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Te Uru. Note Red Shift on the far left of Gallery Five, by the entrance. Elizabeth Thomson: Cellular Memory (diptych) 2019; Voyage Sauvage, 2009; Waiotapu I & II, 2019. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Te Uru Elizabeth Thomson: Waiotapu I & II, 2019; Delta, 2009. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Te Uru On the left, in Te Uru's Gallery Five, Elizabeth Thomson, The Fugitive, after Max Ernst, 2019. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Te Uru. In Gallery Four, Elizabeth Thomson: Free Jazz, Colour Cry, 2019, cast vinyl film, lacquer, contoured and shaped wood panel; Free Jazz, after Len Lye, 2019, cast vinyl film, lacquer, contoured and shaped wood panel. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Te Uru. Installation view of Elizabeth Thomson's Cellular Memory in Gallery Four of Te Uru. Photo by Sam Hartnett, courtesy Te Uru. Installation view of Elizabeth Thomson's Cellular Memory in Gallery Four of Te Uru. Photo by Sam Hartnett, courtesy Te Uru. Installation view of Elizabeth Thomson's Cellular Memory in Gallery Four of Te Uru. Photo by Sam Hartnett, courtesy Te Uru. Installation of Elizabeth Thomson's My Titirangi Years downstairs at Two Rooms. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Elizabeth Thomson, My Titirangi Years - subliminal activity, 2022, cast vinyl, lacquer on contoured and shaped wood, 1400 x 1400 x 50 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Elizabeth Thomson, My Titirangi Years - to the Cascades, 2022, cast vinyl, lacquer on contoured and shaped wood, 900 x 900 x 50 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Elizabeth Thomson, My Titirangi Years - the persistence of memory, 2022, cast vinyl, lacquer on contoured and shaped wood, 1400 x 1400 x 50 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Installation of Elizabeth Thomson's My Titirangi Years downstairs at Two Rooms. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Elizabeth Thomson, The Four Horsemen over Titirangi, after Albrecht Durer, 2022, cast vinyl, lacquer on contoured and shaped wood, 755 x 12100 x 50 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Elizabeth Thomson, My Titirangi Years - Still and Always, for Yves Tanguy, 2022, cast vinyl, lacquer on contoured and shaped wood, 755 x 1132.50 x 50 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Installation of Elizabeth Thomson's My Titirangi Years downstairs at Two Rooms. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Installation of Elizabeth Thomson's My Titirangi Years downstairs at Two Rooms. Each 380 x 615 x 40 mm rectangle is made of glass spheres, epoxy resin, cast vinyl films, lacquer on shaped wooden panel. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms. Installation of Elizabeth Thomson's My Titirangi Years downstairs at Two Rooms. Detail. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms

While both shows are highly allusive with their scientific references (the zigzagging Two Rooms linear meanderings could refer to Brownian motion or retinal tracking) the Te Uru exhibition in particular makes beautiful use of internal gallery architecture, exploiting the various nooks and crannies for maximum intimacy and surprise, delighting in hot and cold piercing colour, and showcasing the use of windows and skylights for daylight.

Te Uru & Two Rooms

Elizabeth Thomson

Cellular Memory (Te Uru)

Curated by Greg O’Brien
24 September - 4 December 2022

 

My Titirangi Years (Two Rooms)
21 October - 19 November 2022

Two Elizabeth Thomson shows are on at the same time in Auckland: one at Te Uru in Titirangi (in the stairwell; Gallery 4; and Gallery 5); the other at Two Rooms in Arch Hill (in the large downstairs gallery). One is a shrewd selection by Greg O’Brien of different wall-relief image types: a much smaller version of the Aratoi-Wairarapa survey show; the other a suite of square landscapes based on blurred coloured photographs of dense luxuriant Titirangi bush but which look surprisingly painterly. The two exhibition titles refer to Thomson’s childhood years in the Waitakere region, and her temporary returning while an Elam student in the eighties.

The two exhibitions are very different in support-panelling systems, surface textures, colour range, viewer interaction, technologies, and landscape types. Te Uru is more about optical research, testing gently undulating planes, glassy and vinyl materials, saturated chroma, and viewer perception of space and light (raking, reflected and translucent) in front of vertical gallery walls.

Two Rooms on the other hand is about a Mark Tobey-type field of dense squiggles where glowing lines suggest moving edges of thin green windblown leaves—or occasional blue blurs that scumbled hint of sky reflected in splashing water; and other smaller rectangular close ups of the cellular structures of leaves and forest animal (gecko) skin and eye parts.

While both shows are highly allusive with their scientific references (the zigzagging Two Rooms linear meanderings could refer to Brownian motion or retinal tracking) the Te Uru exhibition in particular makes beautiful use of internal gallery architecture, exploiting the various nooks and crannies for maximum intimacy and surprise, delighting in hot and cold piercing colour, and showcasing the use of windows and skylights for daylight.

The great thing is that as a pared down (tightened) version of a much more expansive show, the three Te Uru galleries revel in being quite distinct viewing spaces, allowing the work to be at times brilliantly positioned by Greg O’Brien. A bigger exhibition in a more spacious institution I suspect would become unwieldy and full of tangential digression.

This is because the Titirangi iteration seems extremely focussed—even though rippling colours and the flickering translucency of water over sand and pebbles play a big role, water and reflected light being a dominant theme; not in Arch Hill where dappled and darting arboreal shadow is totally dominant.

Hundreds of multi-coloured moths (mainly Puriri) placed high on Te Uru’s curved staircase wall, whilst suggesting the mysteries of life hidden within the foliage of glistening native bush, paradoxically also bring out the best qualities of the Waitakere building’s internal surfaces and its embracing of natural illumination.

Some relief works though, like the flocked Ghosts IVsuffer from the excessive subtlety of their undulating ‘flattened’ convex/concave planes. Few clues are provided by the raking light, so the project (a version of a sandy seabed) becomes an over-clever idea where a cerebral investigation dissolves into something almost impossible to optically detect—being damaged by fiddly ideational overkill. Illusionism on a flat plane I think would have worked better.

My favourite works are less like optical or kinetic sculptures that a curator like the late Guy Brett might swoon over, and more involving of traditional skills like drawing (as with the early {less pristine, more illusionstic} etchings of beach scenes) or dramatic swirling linear gestures such as those found on the cut-relief panel of the recent Lateral series - Tracking /String harvest.

I enjoy the thin turning marks of her hand, preferring them to her other more industrial high-tech endeavours. I like their tense and compressed emotional power—the unanticipated smudges, the spontaneous bursts of feral energy—something in wild linear form she seems now overall to undervalue. Fortunately Thomson’s use of glassy transparent colour is also gloriously visceral. Its saturated intensity helps make this show a wonderful visit.

John Hurrell

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