Shiraz Sadikeen on Furniture Gallery
Furniture Gallery’s presentation of work by Georgia Arnold, Nicholas Pound, Chris Peckham and Olyvia Hong reflects a basic concern with style, of thinking disclosed through the peculiarities of formative gesture, their complementary arrangement disclosing the differential idiosyncrasies of each artist’s personal touch. Displayed within the conceit of an indoor pebble garden, each work’s characteristic knot of haptic qualities becomes an expressive instance of contained and cultivated nature, a combination of ‘organic’ manual textures and intelligences arranged under the harsh artificial light of a curiously antiseptic digital enclosure.
Georgia Arnold’s work is especially suited to this framing, having previously described her own work as an extended drawing practice modelled on the formally generative potential of gardens and gardening, in which one practically encounters distinctions between contained, cultivated and pruned plots and the sinuous lines of unruly natural growth which sprout up within them. Her distribution across mediums and materials seems rooted in the perceptual ambiguities of the figure-ground relations that she frequently describes in her drawings which so readily lend themselves to conceptualisation through the garden metaphor, where the formal play of abstraction and figuration, presence and absence, colour and line, control and automatism, in their quivering indistinction, yield a variety of fuzzily drawn motifs – nonsensical pictograms with a sunny psychedelic quality that are by turns aggregated or disengaged, as in her sculptures and charms, from their fertile graphic substrate.
Nicholas Pound’s paintings play games with the pictorial possibilities of gestural abstraction, churning through oil paint’s oozy suggestibility with a deliberate informality. He skews his hand toward awkward results that emerge out of the scrambled phases of his painting process. Two of his works here tend toward an incipient faciality. As its title suggests, Bibendum congeals into the crude lineaments of a wine-soaked Michelin Man, and S incorporates what look like thumb tacks, a plastic ear and a half circle of foam to suggest a sad looking figure posing for his portrait – a distended ear-lobe doubling as a nose, the indent of its ear-hole also an eye, a crack or the edge of an impasto smear forming an up-turned mouth. Untitled seems to be more of a landscape, though its placement of collaged elements could also suggest a face. The painting’s ground is a streaky, tangled texture of blue, white, brown and green, with hints of purple poking out the sides, criss-crossed with furrows dragged through the paint. He’s lodged rows of monopoly house tokens into the sludge and stuck a Batman badge or fridge magnet declaring ‘Gotham City Originals’ just right of centre, turning the picture into playful, comic evocation of capitalist greed and corruption in the Auckland metropolis.
Chris Peckham contributes a single, modestly scaled colour-pencil drawing set inside a computer-generated ice cube. His drawing has a definite rectilinear substructure, a kind of scribbled in pixel-graphic composition that mixes tiling and primitive one-point perspective in counterpoint to the scrawled diagonal hatches and the swirling tangle of marks that fill the ground and sky, and which darken these green and purple areas to produce a kind of witchy, slightly menacing mood. A disembodied female head floats at the bottom of the picture in a centrally positioned patch of grass, a spiky bramble to her right, twisting icy wind arcs through the purple sky, and a red talismanic square hovers above everything, its interior lines recapitulating the perspectival structure of the picture in which it is set.
Lastly, Olyvia Hong’s work seems to play on myths of knowledge and feminine sexuality. Kumiho shows the nine-tailed fox of Korean legend, looking out at the viewer with an alluring stare, scratching her claws into the craggy tree trunk in an orange-lit, vibratory snow scape, the two vertical edges of the painting affixed, according to the artist, with curls of ‘divinatory’ wax. The kumiho often takes on the guise of a beautiful, ‘foxy’ woman, who devours the souls of those she kisses by transferring a bead or marble deep into their mouths with her tongue, which absorbs their energy before she licks it out. If the seduced victim can swallow the bead before the kumiho however, they get the chance to acquire supernatural knowledge of the earth, sky and people depending on whether they observe these fundamental realities in time. Seen in relation to her kumiho, perhaps Hong’s gnarled Bronze Apple is a reference to the forbidden fruit that tempts Eve and Adam in the Garden with knowledge of good and evil, though her lumpy bronze apple looks a bit diseased and unappetizing, with a thick, cartoonish, curled stem sprouting out the top like a question mark.
SHIRAZ SADIKEEN is an Auckland based artist and writer. Recent exhibitions include Geist at Neo Gracie and Uncomfortable Silence at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū.