Reviews, News and Commentary

Major International and local exhibitions coming to the Auckland Art Gallery

John Daly-Peoples

Gilbert and George

Auckland Art Gallery

Exhibitions Programme 2022

John Daly-Peoples

Over the next  few months, the Auckland Art Gallery will be showing a wide range of exhibition with works of art from the 14th century through to contemporary International and Pacific works.

There will be the controversial  British art duo Gilbert & George, icons from the Christian Orthodox tradition, contemporary feminist art from New Zealand as well as installation by Yona Lee and Sione Monū and Manuha’apai Vaeatangitau

Yona Lee, An Arrangement for 5 Rooms

Yona Lee: An Arrangement for 5 Rooms
From Sat 26 Feb – A free exhibition

Yona Lee makes large, maze-like installations from hundreds of metres of stainless-steel pipe which are cut and welded to form elaborate linear structures, bisecting and transforming gallery spaces and the activities that take place there.

In her installation  Yona Lee: An Arrangement for 5 Rooms she negotiates the relationship between domestic and public spaces and objects. The five rooms of the Gallery adjacent to Albert Park will be the site of a meandering journey through both densely and sparsely filled rooms.

The Auckland-based, New Zealand–Korean artist’s work can be variously interpreted – as structures or systems, as serious or playful, as authoritarian or utopian, as utilitarian or pointless.

For her installations Lee maps the gallery space analysing its particular spatial and social dynamics. In the case of her Auckland show Lee picks up the signature handrail of the Gallery’s architecture and weaves it playfully through the building, turning it into sculpture, and supplying new seating and lighting for visitors. She even pushes the railing into Albert Park where it knots and pauses in the shade of a neighbouring tree. Incorporating familiar signs, like the fabric of Auckland Transport seating and bus bells, this new sculptural installation will interweave common experiences of transit for many across the Auckland region.

She says of the work “‘My ambition for this project is to activate the whole building. To break down the barriers between what is art and non-art, the inside and outside, the day and night, and the public and private. The highlight of the work is where it transitions from the inside to the outside. There is a sense of freedom in this moment that I believe is necessary for this current environment’ says Lee, prior to the exhibition’s opening.”

Jessicoco Hansell, AUNTIFM: To be of Secret Service

Declaration: A Pacific Feminist Agenda
From Sat 26 March – A free exhibition

Declaration: A Pacific Feminist Agenda brings together 12 prominent artists from across the Pacific whose works set a feminist agenda by bringing to the fore the most pressing issues of our times: climate change and resilience, activism, social justice and tino rangatiratanga.

Artists in this exhibition draw on the power of matrilineal knowledge, put their bodies on the line and amplify voices to reflect an approach to feminism that empowers the agency of all genders. Presenting major commissioned projects, rarely seen artworks and ephemera from institutional and private collections,

Declaration: A Pacific Feminist Agenda will feature works by Jasmine Togo-Brisby, Marti Friedlander, Jessicoco Hansell, Taloi Havini, Lonnie Hutchinson, Ioane, Sione Monū, Suzanne Tamaki, Latai Taumoepeau, Molly Rangiwai-McHale & Luisa Tora, Kalisolaite ’Uhila and more.

Sione Monū, Image from 2020 film “Only Yesterday”

New commission – Sione Monū & Manu Vaeatangitau: Kindred: A Leitī Chronicle
From Sat 26 March – A free exhibition

Tāmaki Makaurau-based Tongan artists Sione Monū and Manuha’apai Vaeatangitau present Kindred: A Leitī Chronicle, a multisensory installation that projects leitī (transgender women) experiences into a futuristic alternate reality. Executed in Monū and Vaeatangitau’s animated and playful graphic style, each portrait pays homage to these leitī and their significance in these artists’ lives.

Set in a time where colonisation has not occurred, we follow the journeys of ultimate leitī in an alternate world firmly embedded in the familiar landscape of Tāmaki Makaurau. Their portraits include important leitī leaders such as activist and advocate Joey Mataele and Monū’s family members Tisha Manumua and George Manumua. Together they move freely in a utopian world, undertaking mundane activities such as eating sushi whilst listening to The Meaning of Mariah Carey audiobook and spiritual pilgrimages to Māngere Mountain.

Further drawing viewers into the work is an accompanying soundscape which, like many of Monū’s video works, intertwines speech with minimalist music to evoke emotional responses, memories and space to dream. This mashup of imagery and sound, crossing between the material and immaterial, creates dreamlike sequences that are at once fleeting, humorous and fragile. 

Suji Park, “Dust Collector”

Suji Park: Meonji Soojibga | Dust Collector
From Sat 9 April – A free exhibition

Suji Park is a Korean-New Zealand ceramic sculptor and artist, known for creating pieces of distorted human forms, vessels and abstract objects.

Her Dust Collector project consists of many heads. Heads that turn, pushed and pulled, pressed and cracked, holding space within them like vessels. The forms themselves are imaginatively based on the traditional totem poles found in South Korea across the countryside.

Of her exhibition Park says “When I was travelling around visiting small villages in Korea I could find janseung (Korean totem poles), sotdae (wooden poles or stone pillars with carved birds on their top), doltap (a stone-built pagoda) and sinmok (sacred trees) in the entrance way. While the origin of these structures is unknown, they are believed to bring protection.”

Park’s installation reveals her creative handling of clay, drawing from linguistic, cultural, ceramic and sculptural traditions – its highly material display will be a sumptuous feast of hand-melded traditions.

St George and the Dragon. Crete, c1500

Heavenly Beings: Icons of the Christian Orthodox World

From Fri 15 April – Adults $24.50

Heavenly Beings: Icons of the Christian Orthodox World introduces the profound and timeless tradition of icons, the devotional art of the Orthodox Christian world. This ancient visual tradition, which until 1453 was centred in the Byzantine Empire, is surveyed through over 100 hauntingly beautiful icons dating from 1350- 1800. To believers then and today such images of holy figures, painted on gilded wood panels according to age-old methods, serve as ‘windows into heaven’ during the act of prayer. The works also show how Christian iconography was created and developed based on the Bible, myth and invented stories.

The exhibition includes work by some of the great icon-painting regions and workshops and of Russia, Crete and beyond. The spirit of the Russian artist-monk Andrei Rublev and the touch of Cretan masters, Angelos Aketantos, Andreas Pavias, Nicholas Tzafouris and Constantine Tzanes animate icon after icon, created in deference to the divine. Discover the beauty and power of icons, and their dynamic role in the lives of pilgrims, priests and everyday believers of the early modern world.

Gilbert and George

Gilbert & George: The Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Exhibition
From Sat 7 May – Adults $24.50

Often controversial, sometimes cheeky and always questioning, British artists Gilbert & George have been creating art together ever since they met in 1967 at one of London’s leading art schools. From the very beginning, they have appeared as subjects in their own art and shared a belief in ‘Art for all’.

For Gilbert & George anything – and everything – is a potential subject matter for art. They have peered closely at the big questions of life: religion, sex, violence, hope, addiction and death. Through their films and ‘Living Sculptures’ they have challenged taboos, fought artistic convention and taken a fresh look at the way we live now. From their own bodies to their long-time home in London’s East End, nothing is too personal or too forbidden for these two artists whose work is a portrait of life today.

Developed exclusively with Gilbert & George by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, The Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland Exhibition brings together existing and new work from the 21st century to look back over a joint career that has courted controversy, challenged the status quo and championed alternative views. Exhibiting work direct from Gilbert & George’s own personal collection, it brings some of the most exciting of British art to New Zealand for the very first time. 

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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