Jhana Millers Gallery | Art Fairs
Auckland Art Fair
24 – 28 February 2021
The Right Place?
Will Bennett, Harry Culy, Tyne Gordon, Ayesha Green, Lucy O’Doherty & Elisabeth Pointon
The Right Place?
In 2021, Aotearoa is one of the few locations in which the staging of a conventional art fair can even be imagined. To the on-looking world, this appears the right place to be. But being conscious of hubris (the right place is only so at the right time), and the range and extent of looming catastrophes, it seems appropriate for us to append a question mark. Place is a given, but it can also be queried and changed.
The Right Place? features six early-career artists: Will Bennett, Harry Culy, Tyne Gordon, Ayesha Green, and Elisabeth Pointon of Aotearoa, and Lucy O’Doherty of Australia. The works selected explore diverse relationships with the physical-cultural environment in which we find ourselves, sharing an interest in the sombre and unsettling, particularly as expressions of an awareness of the effects of settler colonisation and environmental degradation.
Ayesha Green plays with colonial systems of knowledge and Victoriana with a fanciful edge. She is best known for her cartoon-like paintings depicting the artist herself or members of her family. For some time now, Green has incorporated botanical references into her works, being drawn to the diverse ways in which plants are used, named, and imbued with meaning.
Will Bennett’s landscapes are painted in lurid hues and feature faceless figures with banners, shields, and swords, engaging in activities of uncertain purpose. The images resonate strongly with ‘speculative fiction’, synthesising fragments of the historical, the contemporary, and the purely imagined, and presenting worlds at once deeply weird and curiously plausible.
Tyne Gordon’s practice centres on explorations of body and landscape, challenging our sense of being bounded units, separate from the world beyond us. In her recent works, material is at the fore. Puddles and smears of paint suggest not only bodily secretions, but also chemical compounds—mineral deposits in thermal pools, perhaps, or the biproducts of mining activity.
Harry Culy has a particular interest in the complex relationships between people and places. Grounded in the tradition of documentary photography, his work might be understood as an extended attempt to make sense of ‘home’. Many of his images show spaces heavily marked by human activity: industrial sites, treeless farmland, the worn corners of cities. They tend to be imbued with unease, a quality that connects with his longstanding interest in the Antipodean Gothic style in art, film, and literature.
At first blush, Lucy O’Doherty’s works can appear straightforward, even illustrative, but as one looks longer they tend to grow stranger, more whimsical, more difficult to interpret. Without exception, the scenes are empty of people and animals. The palette is ice-creamy. Edges tend to be blurred, as if the images are being viewed through a 1990s soap opera camera or eyes hazy with tears.
Elisabeth Pointon is dedicated to interrogating the status quo, placing a particular emphasis on systemic failures relating to marginalised communities. Her work typically centres on text, and is marked by wit and slipperiness of meaning. Pointon adapts language and display methods associated with sales and showrooms, finding richness within expressions and forms that might otherwise seem generic or vacuous.
In extracting the phrase ‘the right place’ from Pointon’s work YOU HAVE COME TO THE RIGHT PLACE. and adding the question mark, gallerist Jhana Millers has entered Pointon mode. Has she selected the correct stand? Is it sufficiently grand? Does it say ‘Jhana Millers’? How’s the location? Cash cow or white elephant? Visitors, remember, are not the only speculators at an art fair.
Adapted from a longer essay, Questions of Place, by Francis McWhannell
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