Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to EyeContact. You are invited to respond to reviews and contribute to discussion by registering to participate.

JH

Seductive Ersatz Metonymy & Denis O’Connor

AA
View Discussion
Denis O'Connor, Pencil Sharpener, 2022, wooden ruler, carved pigmented Welsh slate, 200 x 255 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Denis O'Connor, Bonelight, 2022, Horse Bone butter knife, silver pins, pigmented waxed Welsh slate, 255 x 210 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Denis O'Connor, The Plumassier (The Feather Trader), 2022-3, carved pigmented waxed Welsh slate, Irish Folk Remedy Test, 255 x 230 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Denis O'Connor, Kerfuffle, (St. Kevin and the Marginals), 2022, dominoes, glaze tests, carved pigmented Vermont slate, 175 x 205 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Denis O'Connor, Umu Kotuku (Nankeen Night Heron), 2022, carpenter pencil, carved pigmented Welsh slate, 250 x 210 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Denis O'Connor, Cairn of the Hourglass, 2022, bone dominoes, carved pigmented waxed Vermont slate, 240 x 175 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Denis O'Connor, Mend, 2022, engineer's chalk, carved pigmented waxed welsh slate, 280 x 250 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Denis O'Connor, Drummer Boy, 2022, dominoes, carpenters pencil, carved pigmented Welsh slate, 225 x 222 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Denis O'Connor, Article HQ, 2023, bone dominoes, carved pigmented Welsh slate, 255 x 220 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Denis O'Connor, River Passage, 2022, bone dominoes, carved pigmented Vermont slate, 255 x 170 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Denis O'Connor, Kawakawa Masquerade, 2022, bone dominoes, carved pigmented waxed Welsh slate, 250 x 210 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Denis O'Connor, OSHIBAMA 1, 1883, from an album of pressed native plants, 1883,  325 x 265 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Denis O'Connor, The Tangler and the Trees, 2022, dominoes, glaze tests, carved pigmented waxed Welsh slate, 255 x 210 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Denis O'Connor, Burning Apples, 2022, carved pigmented waxed Welsh slate, French school slate, 225 x 185 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Denis O'Connor, OSHIBAMA 2, 1883, from an album of pressed native plants, 1883,  325 x 265 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Denis O'Connor, Dreamstrokes, 2022, brass carpenter's rule, pigmented waxed Welsh slate, 310 x 250 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Installation view of Denis O'Connor's Lucken's Margin at Two Rooms. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Installation view of Denis O'Connor's Lucken's Margin at Two Rooms. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Denis O'Connor, The Bowl that Waited, 1982, painted wood, Japanese Cedar box, ebonised, Argillite stone, soda fired copper infused porcelain, 215 x 240 x 1385 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms Denis O'Connor, The Bowl that Waited, 1982, detail, painted wood, Japanese Cedar box, ebonised, Argillite stone, soda fired copper infused porcelain, 215 x 240 x 1385 mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett, courtesy of Two Rooms

You can see in front of you why I have started my text in this unorthodox manner. By coincidence Denis O'Connor has included in his current Two Rooms show an image on roofing slate of a “knife,” an image that though a pencil-sharper, is conical and so also a thimble. It has several meanings.

Auckland


Denis O’Connor
Lucken’s Margin


21 July - 19 August 2023

In his 1977 book, The Modes of Modern Writing, that discusses the nature of metonymy (a figure of speech where an associated object or body part is a substitute for the name of another object, or institution or concept), the British novelist, critic and theorist David Lodge—following the pioneer linguist Roman Jakobson—once casually suggested as an example of this term (p.78) that a traumatised aphasic patient might say “pencil-sharpener, apple-parer, bread knife, knife-and-fork” instead of the more disturbing word, “knife.”

You can see in front of you why I have started my text in this unorthodox manner. By coincidence Denis O’Connor has included in his current Two Rooms show an image on roofing slate of a “knife,” an image that though a pencil-sharper, is conical and so also a thimble. It has several meanings.

His selection of wall works in the upstairs gallery (along with some sculpture) includes found pressed plants from 1883 (under glass) as themselves, and objects and animal parts painted on slate as replacements for key natural and artificial objects that he recalls within personal narratives.

In the 14 slate paintings he presents the use of what I call ‘fake inlay’, as if using jewel-like insertions, but they are really intact surfaces with incised edges—not additions physically plugged into holes—and sometimes also flat relief carving. Metonymy emphasises a displacement, an imagistic substitution for a name. The mock inlaid image serves as kind of rebus for the written ‘naming-word’ where it is the ‘inlaid’ shape that has meaning, not the word that that shape describes.

For example, the painted blue feather in The Plumassier (The Feather Trader) does not in itself mean a question, but its curved linear shape does. An unbent avian winged body part does not alone equate with interrogation.

These paintings look like book-covers, enticing openable codices containing pages, and with text covered vertical spines (or columns of dominoes) along their lefthand edges.

Of course O’Connor is presenting single panel, static, painted and carved images here that may allude to a narrative that he could (if he wished) elucidate verbally or in a text. They are not stories, or films or comics—with sequential parts—they are puzzling symbols (constructed fake metonymies) that might also involve frozen protagonists within slices from a chronological stream.

Out of the whole show, it is these discrete slate works lined up in a row that I wish to emphasise, and not the five pieces of sculpture on the opposite side of the narrow space—though one freestanding piece, The Bowl that Waited, has many methodological (exquisite corpse?) similarities with one slate painting in particular, Kerfuffle (St Kevin and the Marginals).

Both have extra-long body parts: The skinny white sculpture with short bendy legs (attached to feet wearing turquoise jandals) shows a long undulating arm reaching upwards, holding a copper infused porcelain bowl placed on a beautiful ebony box. The colourful Kerfuffle, (St. Kevin and the Marginals), on the other hand, presents a wonky letter ‘K’, standing for Karangahape Rd.

The letter consists of a reaching out arm at the top, attached to a restless leg attached to a yellow sock and stamping boot, and an elongated spotted red toadstool fastened to a white horse’s shank. It is gorgeously evocative and seems to be a mysterious synthesis of Irish folktales and the vibrant night culture that dwells on this west-east ridge. The human, animal and fungi parts could be sequential permutations of a single shape shifter, what O’Connor calls a Mister Lucken. (See hand out interview with Emil McAvoy.)

One of my favourite works is Umu Kotuku (Nankeen Night Heron) where a small, delicate, colourful heron (recently emigrated from Australia) rests on the ticklish flat sole of a stretched up, inverted foot reaching out of a tributary running off the Whanganui River. I can almost feel its scratchy claws on my own tootsie.

Another gem is Cairn of the Hourglass, a painting that shows an egg-timer that might also be a pink toilet bowl with raised lid. In the top oval are several sliced up dice, and cascading down into the lower ‘bowl’ are black dots from the shredded cubes. Comparing chopped up numbers to falling poo is a droll way to condemn gambling and wasted money. A scatological yet witty method of saying something very serious, this is one of many treasures in a fascinating presentation.

John Hurrell

Print | Facebook | Twitter | Email

 

Recent Posts by John Hurrell

JH

‘Take What You Have Gathered From Coincidence.’

GUS FISHER GALLERY

Auckland

 

Eight New Zealand artists and five Finnish ones


Eight Thousand Layers of Moments


15 March 2024 - 11 May 2024

 

JH
Patrick Pound, Looking up, Looking Down, 2023, found photographs on swing files, 3100 x 1030 mm in 14 parts (490 x 400 mm each)

Uplifted or Down-Lowered Eyes

MELANIE ROGER GALLERY

Auckland


Patrick Pound
Just Looking


3 April 2024 - 20 April 2024

JH
Installation view of Richard Reddaway/Grant Takle/Terry Urbahn's New Cuts Old Music installation at Te Uru, top floor. Photo: Terry Urbahn

Collaborative Reddaway / Takle / Urbahn Installation

TE URU WAITAKERE CONTEMPORARY GALLERY

Titirangi

 


Richard Reddaway, Grant Takle and Terry Urbahn
New Cuts Old Music

 


23 March - 26 May 2024

JH
Detail of the installation of Lauren Winstone's Silt series that is part of Things the Body Wants to Tell Us at Two Rooms.

Winstone’s Delicately Coloured Table Sculptures

TWO ROOMS

Auckland

 

Lauren Winstone
Things the Body Wants to Tell Us

 


15 March 2024 - 27 April 2024