The visual arts, at the higher end of the spectrum, are not above the vagaries of fads and fashion. There are unspoken agendas operating out there in the rarefied arenas of the art world. What’s hot in this country at the moment is anything to do with post-colonialism “discourse”, gender and identity politics, and something that might be loosely described as “visual systems”.
If any contemporary artist fails to conform or works outside these trendy parameters, they can kiss goodbye to recognition, applause and general approbation.
But there are those out there who buck the trends, plough a lonely furrow and ignore the demands of what happens to be in vogue.
Currently showing at the Wallace Gallery, Morrinsville, is a duo team Tim and Tracy Croucher who have mounted a show, entitled, ‘The Pull’, which traverses a subject well off the map the art cognoscenti might deem worthy of notice. This husband and wife pair have taken as their subject matter, the regional landscapes of the local area, “water holes and beaches” that are and have been of pivotal interest to the couple – Opal Hot Springs, Spa Park, Pirongia, and Te Aroha Domain.
As if to re-programme viewer expectation and assumptions, they have painted these humble locations on a large heroic scale in order to reverse and recalibrate what these otherwise self-effacing subjects might have alternatively implied in the minds of the art world. It is certainly refreshing to see such a treatment, provided with the weight and dimension they deserve. These often overlooked elements in our lives merit such attention.
Likewise, weaving and tapestry is a medium—often deemed lowly “craft”—that the high art world tends to look down on. All these little hierarchies silently function with the gate-keepers keeping a firm grip of what can and cannot enter the hallowed domains.
But Hamilton artist Marilyn Rea-Menzies in her exhibition ‘Extinction is Forever’ (at Wallace Gallery), has adopted the medium to explore one of the pressing issues of our time, that of the conservation of endangered species, particularly New Zealand native birds. To do this, she has used a cloak format to present her imagery to powerful effect. Kōkako, Hihi and Tīeke are represented, both alive and dead in impressive, large, cape-like mantles that raises fibre art to a new level of significance.
Still-life is another art form that has gone out of fashion, but artist Negin Dastgheib, at Weasel Gallery, has revived the tradition with a series of paintings involving flower and leaf motifs that recall, in some aspects, the work of Matisse.
Good to see such dissent and heterodoxy at work.