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April 11, 2011 | by  | in Visual Arts | [ssba]

The Un-Sited

An underlying idea behind an exhibition is usually a theme or common thread that unites a series of works and provides a point of reference to view them from.
Within New Zealand and Wellington this often takes the form of investigating how New Zealand artists identify and critique a New Zealand identity, culture or sense of place. A prominent example of this currently is Back, Beyond, and Here at the Museum of City and Sea.

This idea of a sense of place uniting artists is not new and has in my view become somewhat tired. I was therefore seriously looking forward to The Un-Sited at the Wellington City Gallery as it promised a re-assessment of this relationship between artist and place.

The exhibit is one of the council’s own art collection but is perversely proud of not conforming to the general function of civic collections as a civic pride inspirer of suburban and scenic landscapes. From the title down this exhibit is trying hard to be fresh and in doing so it sacrifices much of its potential. There are some lovely works in this space, but quite patently there are not enough of them and the exhibit suffers from having a huge amount of space around what are essentially quite small works.

The introduction to the works tells us they provide a sense of the “here and now” of the Wellington artists who have contributed to the collection. There are some fascinating uses of new mixes of media, such as the constructed photography technique used by Kate J. Woods, and these works do present a fascinating period of contemporary experimentation in NZ art. But all this does not make them an abstract view on the nature of Wellington or Aotearoa and I felt this was a misleading way to present these pieces. Galleries have a tendency to overanalyze the way that art is presented and in this case it certainly seems like a classic example of more is less.

Having said this, it is always good to see local artists shown in a prominent space and these works are genuinely worth seeing in their own right.


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  1. Buffee says:

    Real brain power on dspialy. Thanks for that answer!

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