Saturday, June 20, 2009

Another quirky Dunedin spot

I'd never been in the Blue Oyster art gallery until a week or so ago, when I went in expecting to see something happening in relation to an exhibition by Anya Sinclair. I was too early, however, and whatever was on - two or three of those arty videos with odd soundtracks that occasionally turn up - didn't grab me much. The Blue Oyster is in a basement area underneath the barber shop in Moray Place, and is probably in a fairly original piece of Dunedin's architecture, and thus eserves to be included in the quirky list I'm gradually building up (!)

Anyway, I went back last week to see Anya's piece, and was pleasantly surprised by the work of the other two artists that was also on display. Modern art can be pretty hit and miss.

Much and all as I wanted to like Anya's exhibition, she being the daughter of a friend, I don't think I quite got it, and the introduction in the sheet that went with it wasn't terribly helpful, being one of those arcane pieces of writing that often accompany modern art. They seem to say less than the sum of the words. Let me quote it:

Anya Sinclair's Future Girl is a sculptural rendering of sterile cyber-space, abstracted and distilled from nature, constructed by Future Girl a cyborg bishōjo (heroine) programmed to create immersive phantasmagorical landscapes. Future Girl aims to shape a private universe by consciously investing and indulging in her desire to escape into fantasy. By inviting viewers into her private world she references the shared consumption and creation of artificial virtual environments through mediums such as the Internet and multi-player computer games. Her work takes issue with the evolving sophistication of alternative realities that increasingly premise virtual experience over physical reality.

Okay, from that prospectus, what would you expect? Well, what we got was a number of tall iceberg type features made from papier-mâché, that glistened with a sparkly white paint, and were able to be walked among. The description quoted above didn't tally in any great way that I could see with what was in front of me, but maybe I'm missing something. Does the 'story' really help the art? And is there really anything obviously 'political' about it as the quote suggests? Not for me. However, I liked the icebergs, though I don't think they have a long shelf life.

The other two artists were Alan Ibell and Markus Hofko. Alan Ibell is a painter and musician, based in Dunedin. I know it means nothing that I've never heard of him, but I thought I had a bit of a handle on most Dunedin artists. You can see typical examples of the paintings that were in this exhibtion here. I like these paintings, with their surreal air of mystery, and their sense that an explanation was available if only you looked long enough.

Hofko is a German artist currently living in New Zealand, and you can see examples of the work that I saw here. These 'islands' were isolated chunks of 'earth' hanging in space (literally hanging, in each case, from the ceiling), and each one had a tiny group of humans acting out some scenario, from being surprised that a circus truck was stuck in the side of their island, in one case, to sunning themselves under an ordinary sized iron (with the name Global Warm on it) - the electric cord for the iron was used to hang this particular island.

Hofko's work is immensely detailed, and has elements of humour in almost every case. The materials used are often 'found', by the looks of it, but the little people (or monkeys in a take-off of the movie, 2001: a space odyssey) have either been handmade or exist in sufficient quantities somewhere for Hofko to purchase them and bring them into his work.

Obviously it pays to pop into the Blue Oyster every so often - all the more so as it's only around the corner from where I work.
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