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May 25, 2009 | by  | in Visual Arts | [ssba]



Utopia / Dystopia is quite possibly the best exhibition I’ve seen so far this year. Each work displayed shows a remarkable subtle wit; a creativity that is complemented with a high level of technical skill and finish.

The exhibition displayed at Toi Poneke Gallery is the work of 12 art teachers from Wellington, who have taken this opportunity to showcase their own artwork which must often take a backseat to their jobs. The focus of the exhibition is the concept of Utopia—whether it exists, what form it takes, and where it can be found.

In collaborative exhibitions, there’s always the fear that the artworks of different artists will either present no variety at all, or bear no relationship to each other and seem disjointed. Utopia/Dystopia has managed to achieve this precarious balance between cohesion and variety.

As the leader of the group, Fiona Sullivan, has noted, the amorphous concept of Utopia allows for a wide range of viewpoints, allowing each artist to present their individual take on utopia. The variety seen is the remarkable broad scope of mediums used. There are oil paintings, cyanotypes, bronze sculptures, mixed media on board and carbon transfers on canvas.

The quality of each of the works ensures that there isn’t a sense of discord between the works, with each work technically perfect and each work displaying its own sense of wit, which the concept of Utopia lends itself to. Helen Lloyd, for instance, has managed to capture the fleetingness of Utopia, if such moments exist at all. One of her artworks is an oval mirror placed on top of a square mirror, so that in the reflection, the oval frames the viewer. Beneath it is the label “This moment is all we have”. Next to this artwork in another mirror, this time with the caption “Things will look different tomorrow”. In this version, the oval mirror has been rotated so that the reflection is slightly aschew. The ability to convey her point with such a simple gesture is indicative of the ingeniousness that runs throughout this exhibition.

There is one painting on display which has written on it in black paint “Those who can’t do, teach”, a ironic quote that is definitely refuted by the quality of works on display. It is an absolute privilege to be able to see the works of people who spend so much of their time fostering the work of others, and if this is the quality of the art teachers in Wellington, the future of fine arts lies in capable hands.

Toi Poneke gallery
1-22 May 2009


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