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PICTURE - MRS DOREEN STEEL - 2004

Fraser John Gallery, Auckland
Curated by Anna Miles
* Hand printed A1 B&W large format print framed on kappa board with matting - framed

 

These Artists  that I visit were working in series. I became captivated by the iconic, ambiguous character of their works, which is heightened in this exhibition due to the removing of a number of individual works from their series. Many of the works I chose represented and immersion in conventions of picture making (often the portrait), but others arrive at the flat, wall-based form as a means for documenting the conceptual and ephemeral practices. The contrast between Amanda Dorcil’s portrait Doreen Steel and Eve Armstrong’s Arrangement illustrates the range of approaches to picture making that this exhibition includes. Interestingly both work with the studio portrait. 

 

With a meticulous eye for lighting and texture,  Dorcil has produced a portrait of the fashion designer’s mother that gives an insight to the delicacy and vulnerability of glamour. Armstrong’s work, that extends her documentation of “accidental formalism”, is similar aesthetically focused. 

In this landscape format digital photography the cardboard boxes and somewhat incongruously sugary pink rubbish bags that the artist finds and records on city streets have been scooped up, brought indoors and treated to a studio sitting. While Amanda Dorcil grants Doreen Steel’s living room an otherworldliness that may not be apparent in the light of day, Eve Armstrong’s rendering of the particular category of rubbish alludes to sublime representations of landscapes like the pink and white terraces.

The fascination with materiality and attentiveness to format that pervades Dorcil and Armstrong’s works is reflected in many other works. The sensuous rending of dark macrocarpa, green grass and pink flesh in Conor Clark’s Nude Female in Her Paddock creates an association between her awkward figure who appears about to hop and more lazily recumbent Venuses of Art History. Like Clark’s Nude F, Helen van de Merve’s knitwear models are also incongruously caught up in the natural world. Marooned in darkness, this well upholstered pair is poised to slalom through luxuriant tangerine-coloured lilies. 

Extracting a straight forward analysis of sexually charged imagery from this collage is not easy. Rather, like other artists in the exhibition, bands Merve appears interested in devising formal methods that encourage oblique and unpredictable reading. Her impulse is to some extent echoed by the one no-wall based work in the exhibition, Seung Yul Oh’s Dirpeeuw, a concrete-coated mascot-like elephant that baas like a lamb.