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A Very Peculiar Practice: Aspects of Recent New Zealand Painting
A Very Peculiar Practice: Aspects of Recent New Zealand Painting
City Gallery, Te Whare Toi
Published on the occasion of the exhibition A Very Peculiar Practice, 10 June - 3 September 1995 at City Gallery, Wellington Te Whare Toi. Good second-hand condition. A Very Peculiar Practice is the first show by City Gallery's new curator Allan Smith and it's the largest survey of contemporary New Zealand painting in over a decade. Featuring fifty-three works by forty painters, all made during the 1990s, it manages to be highly inclusive yet curatorially specific. The show is divided into rooms: one is 'image-rich', one is dominated by minimalist abstraction, another is a 'brooding melancholic room' devoid of colour. Works are arranged in a compare-and-contrast fashion, with formal strategies and motifs ricocheting between works: here it's crosses, there it's stripes, over there, ensembles of parts, etc. The fragmentary nature of perception is reflected in fractured compositions; many works are ensembles of parts. With its rearrangeable painted shapes, Richard Killeen's cut out Seven Black Combs (1991) offers a starting point for considering post-modern fragmentation and 'sign' in New Zealand painting. Ruth Watson's S_GNDA (1992) consists of five small square canvases resembling Scrabble tiles. Ronnie van Hout's teasing diptych, I'm with Stupid, Stupid's with Me (1993) is a pair of signs leaning against the wall, referring to each other. But who is stupid here: the art, the artist, or the audience? Perhaps all three? In his catalogue essay, 'A Very Peculiar Practice: A User's Guide', Smith advises, 'The paintings require careful looking. Like a newcomer to a city, we must read the visible signs, nominate clues and draw together fragments of meaning in order to gain insight into the many worlds revealed to us.' He says, 'The paintings in the exhibition are about making sense of our lives as city dwellers and the way we interpret our way through a mass of incomplete visual messages and signs. We have to read cultural and social patterns of behaviour, remains of partially forgotten histories, media imagery, neon logos, and advertising hoardings.' He tells the Dominion, 'I'm interested in artists dealing in issues with cross-cultural material, trying to come to terms with new social and cultural patterns in the world.'
Second hand Paperback

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