John Hurrell – 14 September, 2023
In a particularly exuberant international exhibition organised for Starkwhite by Sydney artist Jonny Niesche, formal qualities such as hot saturated colour, thick curved line and sharply angled shape provide a joyful, celebratory, bodily alternative to much of the crisis-driven, declamatory, politically strident statements dominant in many current gallery programmes.
Daniel Boccato, Greg Bogin, Florian Maier-Aichen, Gerold Miller, Robert Moreland, Elizabeth Pulie, Anselm Reyle, Jim Roche, Rosie Rose, Tariku Shiferaw, Jessica Stockholder, Vincent Szarek, Blair Thurman, Brendan Van Hek
Curated by Jonny Niesche,
1 September - 30 September 2023
Ümwelt is a particularly exuberant international exhibition organised for Starkwhite by Sydney artist Jonny Niesche, formal qualities such as hot saturated colour, thick curved line and sharply angled shape provide a joyful, celebratory, bodily alternative to much of the crisis-driven, declamatory, politically strident statements dominant in many current gallery programmes.
Presenting 26 works from 14 artists spread over 3 rooms, Ümwelt is a biological term applied to nonhuman and human subjectivities. Here though it tends to dwell on the universes of artists and the restless energised desire activated within their insular hermetic worlds. Of the contributors, half are from the USA, three are Australian, three others are German and one is Korean.
A couple, like Rose and Stockholder, are surprisingly intimate with an emphasis on close-up textural scrutiny and unusual materials. (Rose exploits improvised irregular grids of snipped-up plastic zipper, and Stockholder has ‘scruffily’ scumbled brushmarks directly applied on to mounted glass.) Most are compositionally bold, and easily examined from a distance. Many show a preoccupation with hi-gloss automobile paint, car-lovers that revel in coloured sheen on curved surfaces.
Even though the three exhibiting spaces are on three floors, the works interconnect vertically and diagonally as if the architecture were invisible. The selection is cohesive, yet full of surprises. Many of the exhibits can be paired up in contrasting or sympathetic combinations, acting as visual foils or formal companions. Here are eight examples.
The triangle-based works of Daniel Boccato and Elizabth Pulie are striking green and black relief sculptures that dominate the top space. Cryoface and #67 (Cape for my Guru) rely on soft geometry for their impact, though the latter has other coloured geometries inserted. A primal slabbed physiognomy versus a sheeted decorative garment, their severe angular contours effortlessly grab your attention.
Anselm Reyle’s two Untitled linear neon works, whilst on a romantic theme, hint at the fragile possibilities of commitment. One of these spindly contributions has a shimmering reflective silver pillow behind it, muddling, greatly complicating and distorting its clarity of drawn and read definition.
A third Reyle work, a rectangular painting with butted together metallic vertical strips, can be compared to Verstärker, a freestanding Newmanesque obelisk sculpture by Gerold Miller, made of polished aluminium, positioned in the gallery window.
Two particularly elegant coloured reliefs, with decentred looping bands that allude to high-speed motorways, are presented by Greg Bogin and Blair Thurman: one horizontally aligned, the other vertical. Another Thurman contribution, NZ Rider, a squashed vertical ring that is restrainedly wiggly, can be related to two straight hi-gloss-covered vertical curved beams from Vincent Szarek, BC1 Viper Green, and BCT Ebony.
Robert Moreland‘s Blunted Red Rectangle, and Jim Roche‘s two Aframe works, play on angular bending surfaces dramatically effecting vertical centres. Moreland has five descending adjacent planes—two fixed and two at the ends and middle, attached with leather hinges—while Roche’s wall sculpture is solid fibreglass, curved in profile and multicoloured.
Tariku Shiferaw‘s rectangle of thin agitated blue, positioned behind five hovering horizontal hard-edged bars of brown and black, delights in its background of manual freneticism, as does the teeteringly chaotic Jessica Stockholder with its painted glass, attached plastic bowl and folded rubber mat.
One photograph, a strangely coloured, subtly surreal print from Florian Maier-Aichen, is included in the show, showing an immense beach and an infinitely stretching sea. Its accentuated horizontality can be contrasted with a rug-work by Brendan Van Hek. In his contribution, the dark tufted borders that surround two dominant pale squares are deliberately misaligned, being rudely chopped off at the edges of a pale blue background woven support. The carpet’s spatial limitations are therefore mocked; a source of droll amusement.
This splendid exhibition of innovative materiality and lively composition is quite a treat. For Auckland where the post-lockdown (and politically obsessed) scene—like in other cities—has become somewhat stale and stodgy of late, it is a welcome draught of clean fresh air.