New Zealand Contemporary Art Turangawaewae A Place to Stand
Vol 26 no 2, 2006
Well known Australian writer, artist and editor, Stephanie Radok is the editor of New Zealand Contemporary Art Turangawaewae: A Place to Stand, launched at the Sydney Biennale and at ARTSPACE Auckland. Artists and galleries throughout New Zealand have never been so active, with international programs and new media activity building on the work of far-sighted pioneers. Experienced NZ writers look closely at established and emerging artists and spaces, regional practice, publishing, and new events. Artists include the installation group et al., Eve Sullivan, Michael Stevenson, Francis Upritchard, Peter Madden, Shane Cotton, Terry Urbahn, Simon Denny. The documentary strand in contemporary photography is scrutinised. Writers include Tina Barton, Emma Bugden, Sarah Farrer, Natasha Conland, Lara Strongman, Andrew Paul Wood , Tessa Laird, Kate Montgomery and Emma Velde.
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Penny Mason's series of large captivating works on paper, Excess, is a strong example of how a viewer can be drawn into a dialogue with abstracted work. The work challenges notions of abstraction, through both the repetitive use of line and the encompassing presentation strategy used in the installation. The artist speaks of how 'the single line of marks overflows into questions of what it is we seek in abstraction', and this body of works creates for the viewer endless possibilities of what it is that is being expressed.
This series of works has been produced purely with ink on Japanese paper, each line being repeatedly placed with a single mark of the brush and subtle variations are expressed by the intensity of the ink. With each of the work's sections completed in a single sitting over a period of hours, Mason describes her process as a form of meditative contemplation - a contemplation that occurs through the conscious and sub-conscious repetition of the linear strokes. Likewise, I found that the diligently repeated motif recreates a similarly meditative environment for the viewer, as well as allowing an appreciation for the simplicity of ink and paper.
Significant areas explored by Mason through her practice include the evolution of language and mark-making. Drawing reference from the patterns and designs that can be found in nature, Excess seeks to create a dialogue between the emergence of text from nature and the evolution of script. This has been achieved by the way the work raises the possibilities of a 'future text', that is a text without direct interpretation but one which allows the viewer to uncover a message through an individual experience with the work. When viewing the installation I found myself drawn into the work, with the skilfully rendered lines holding my attention with a suggestion of written words, or staves of music. Individual interpretation is fundamental to the reading of Mason's work which is experienced uniquely by each viewer; reflecting the shifting context of personal experience.
Mason sees this work as an example of the performative nature of abstraction with the time-based quality of its creation captured in the repetition of line in which the viewer is carried along, almost as if following a musical score. The work nurtures a sense of individual contemplation as the viewer is immersed in the textual quality surrounding them in the gallery space.
Likewise, Excess allows the viewer's imagination to colour and reinterpret the work. I discovered that this 'openness' created an opportunity to interact with the artwork, where I found rhythms, tones and variations that conjured suggestions of text, or pattern as reflected in daily life. This work challenged me to investigate the abstraction in a new way by not simply allowing the work to speak but allowing an opportunity for a dialogue to emerge between the drawings and the audience. The work allows the viewer to find reflections of their own experience with the textual nature of the marks being the aspects that I found spoke to me most readily. I was engrossed by both the meticulous, precise investigation into process and the methods of mark-making and abstraction in contemporary art. Standing in the space, the scale of the artwork demanded an emotive, physiological and imaginative response.
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Articles in this issue
- Artist-run initiatives: Cuckoo
- Artist-run initiatives: Enjoy (Wellington)
- Artist-run initiatives: RM103 (Auckland)
- Artist-run initiatives: Special (Auckland)
- Artrave: Artrave
- Editorial: Seeking Origins - Whakapapa Genealogy
- Feature: An Artist's Economy: Madden, Stevenson, Upritchard
- Feature: Braided Rivers: Regionalism in New Zealand Art
- Feature: Don't Misbehave! SCAPE 2006 Public Art Biennial
- Feature: New Arrival: Brian Butler, Director of Artspace
- Feature: Of New Zealand Art and Letters
- Feature: Reality-technicians: everyday sorcery in installation art in New Zealand
- Feature: State of the Art New Zealand
- Feature: Visions and Revisions: Recent Work by Shane Cotton
- Feature: You And Me And Everyone We Know: Photography
- Focus interview: Charles Merewether: Director of 15th Biennale of Sydney
- Focus interview: Steve Kurtz: Critical Art Ensemble
- Review: 2006 Contemporary Commonwealth
- Review: 21st Century Modern: 2006 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art
- Review: An Overview: 'Roots and All'
- Review: Colliding Worlds, First Contact in the Western Desert 1932-1984
- Review: Corrupting Youth
- Review: Excess: Penny Mason
- Review: Festival Melbourne 2006
- Review: FotoFreo 2006
- Review: Miriam Stannage: Sensation
- Review: Other(wize)
- Review: The Bentinck Project
- Review: The Late Sessions
- Review: What Survives: Sonic Residues in Breathing Buildings