Welcome to the Review Repository - an archive of reviews that were originally published in the Saturday edition of the Taranaki Daily News from September 2007 – April 2008.

The reviews were written for a general audience and therefore tend to be descriptive and educational in focus.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Curiouser and Curiouser

artwork by Jared Bryant

Clear order is a dull illusion. Before the dawn of modern science, known as the pre-enlightenment, it was a European pastime (of the affluent class during the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries) to compile collections of wonderful and strange cultural objects and natural specimens from faraway lands. These collections stored in shelves and cupboards were called a cabinet of curiosities – they were called this because the world and life during this period was a mystery and only explainable through spiritual beliefs. This all changed, however, when modern science became the popular mode of thought and so vanished the bizarre cabinets - replaced by collections ordered in rationally and objective categories.

Today the closest collection that most people have to the curiosity cabinet is common garage junk – the obvious difference being is that this collection is an unwanted residue. A residue that we tend to shed at this time of year in an almost ritualistic attempt to create order out of apparent chaos. When the complexity of reality confounds us we seek solace in the simple by creating stacks and piles, categories and compartments, boundaries and grids. However, life is not black and white – it is a screaming jungle of vibrant colour. Or as I found out last Saturday the brilliance of life could be a fluorescent pink pair of sneakers dangling from a gallery spotlight, row of beer bottles smeared in paint, box of bananas made out of wool, fence paling sprouting from a bucket of paint or pristine circles of blue and red powder precariously dusted on the floor. This is not the description of a curiosity cabinet or junk in a garage but artworks in an exhibition by The Cavendish Banana Company. The exhibition is called Trudy’s Motorbike and is currently on show at the Lesley Kreisler Gallery.

The company’s representatives Eugene Kreisler and Jared Bryant are the artists responsible for this baffling assortment of objects. Either from spending time with a particular artwork or by observing the relationships to those around it - these objects are symbolic of life’s contradictory complexities and overlooked everyday splendour. For instance, the quirky simplicity in Kreisler’s painting entitled ‘Thunder’ is significant of both sincerity and disillusionment. It is made out of a large circular canvas with a roughly painted black zigzag. Attached to the bottom of the canvas are brightly coloured threads that dribble onto the floor. The work resembles an American Indian dreamcatcher amulet believed to lure good dreams and repel or ensnare bad ones. These days the dreamcatcher is reduced to a meaningless kitsch object that you can buy from the $2 shop. Kreisler’s dream catcher however, is deliberately blown out of proportion and made in an odd fashion giving it a strange appearance. It could be symbolic of either a sincere homage to the noble mysticism of the American Indian or an ironic critique of how it has been reduced to a tacky souvenir. Or even the muddled and surreal imaginings of a deep sleep.

In a different vein but equally curious is a series of paintings placed on the floor. Brandished across the surfaces are passionate strokes of thick paint slapped onto otherwise clean stretched white canvases. On top of each painting is either a beer or energy drink bottle. Studying the expressionist gestures brings to mind the analysis of hand writing or body language as a judge of personality. Similarly with the placement of the beer and energy drink bottles makes one think of the influence that substances have on our behaviour. Behaviours that interestingly contradict the advertised images for these beverages.

Like a murky dream were one thing morphs into another, directly opposite Kreisler’s painting ‘Thunder’ is a different work that shares some uncanny formal similarities but in miniature form. The work, by Bryant, is a tiny white handcrafted skull that is bleeding a redeeming rainbow of dazzling colours. Accompanying the skull are equally troubling works including one depicting a small body trapped in a web like lattice of paint. Close by is a painting that sports the slogan “PILL POP ‘N’ PUBLIC’ and another that simply reads ‘FAKE’ in bold 3D letters. The combination of all these works point to the beguiling nature of pop culture commercialism, the trappings of societal expectations and the fear of conservative normality.

One of the great things about this exhibition is that it could easily be viewed as one large amazing artwork, it is after all produced by one entity: The Cavendish Banana Company. In all its entirety and disparity Trudy’s Motorbike suggests to us that life is not clear and rational but rife with complex beauty and nonsensical relationships. Exiting the exhibition though a green, yellow and blue striped fly curtain I felt as though I had witnessed both the mystical significance of the cabinet of curiosities, and the meaningless accumulation of the garage. Trudy’s Motorbike is a precious art experience full of bewilderment and brilliance.

Trudy’s Motorbike closes 29th September 2007
The Lesley Kreisler Gallery
Gill Street above Portofino Restaurant