'Communicating Vessels' - Hayley Theyers, Mary Macgregor-Reid & Kate Rampling, Photospace Gallery 7 May to 26 June 2021
Communicating Vessels - artist statement
The word ‘unseen’ means to exist through a shroud of mystery and obscurity. The work of Surrealist and Occultist Ithell Colquhoun represents the unseen due to her preoccupation with the realms of the mental and spiritual. This is most evident within her occult practice (the word literally meaning ‘hidden’), as well as themes in her practice regarding communication of divine wisdom and earthly connection. Colquhoun was defiant and idealistic in her work and life; largely removing her from Surrealist dialogue. However, she is being rediscovered by contemporary audiences and newly observed through a feminist, surrealist and abstract paradigm.
Hayley Theyers was especially drawn to La Cathedrale Engloutie and with a meditative, dreamlike approach, explored its landscapes, contemplated its ruins and followed its runes. Working with water as a visual device allowed her to create the flowing, dreamlike tableaux commonly found within her practice. Hayley’s process is intuitive and open to transformation in post-production; much the same way a painter composes an artwork. She explores the unseen by depicting dream-states in literal form; that murky haze upon which we awake and remember moments of half-forgotten reveries. Hayley states ‘I found myself inside the island, floating to infinity and engulfed by the liquid medium of dreams.’
Colquhoun’s work is vocal of her reverence for the female experience. A woman’s thighs in bath water are at once cliff faces in the ocean and the mythological being Scylla. An abstract painting with a cavernous hole is the anatomy of a tree and the anatomy of the female body. Kate Rampling was immediately drawn to the way in which Colquhoun views the female body in relationship to the earth; they are one and the same, interchangeable and often unrecognisable from the other. Kate explored this through the female body mimicking the natural landscape, interacting with it and simply being present within it, in quiet moments of communion. She has reinterpreted Colquhoun’s abstract work into something identifiable, however, not completely without the element of chance, using automatism upon the photo negative surface.
In the later part of her life Ithell moved increasingly further away from her Surrealist practice towards purely colour-based expression. Her Taro as Colour works explore the archetypes embodied in tarot by eschewing the heavily symbolic and figurative iconography of extant decks and relying heavily on galactic bursts and swirls of pigment, informed by colour theory and the esoteric guidance of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Ithell did not intend these cards for divination, rather for transcendent spiritual contemplation. Mary Macgregor-Reid was captivated by this series of images and wished to filter her own figurative practice through the clarifying lense of Colquhoun’s sublime colour.
To interpret Colquhoun’s work requires analysis and a yielding of oneself to her inner world; an immersive, subterranean and rewarding experience. She commonly utilised double imagery, surrealist techniques such as automatism and decalcomania and shared secret, learned wisdom to those willing to unearth it. For Colquhoun, art was a form of communication that benefitted the spectator and allowed the artist to attain higher states of consciousness. Communicating Vessels reiterates the role of the artist as a communicator of ideas and concepts, opens up dialogue surrounding our relationship to the earth and celebrates a female artist who has much wisdom left to impart on a contemporary audience.
We are pleased to present, in association with New Zealand Photography Workshops, ''Expressions of Aotearoa - New Zealand Landscape Photography Exhibition' at Photospace Gallery from 27 March to 1 May 2021,
The exhibition features landscape photography by, Richard Young, Rob Brown, Mark Gee, Ken Wright, Christopher Thompson, Shaun Barnett, Spencer Clubb, Bridget Sloane, Leanne Silver, Bob Pullein, Helen Darling, Peter Jones.
Purchasing photos from this exhibition is done online. Please Register here.
The exhibition images are now viewable online, but please take the opportunity to see the prints on the walls of the gallery, as they represent the photographers' finished presentation and vision of each scene.
Artist talk, Saturday 20th March, at noon. All welcome.
wet_land - an exhibition by Lisa Clunie and Thorsten Hoppe - is showing at Photospace Gallery from 5th to 20th March, 2021.
Interview with Lisa Clunie on Radio New Zealand, Nights programme 10 March, 2021
Ten minutes north of Whangārei lies what used to be one of Aotearoa’s largest wetlands- Te Repo o Hikurangi (the Hikurangi Swamp). Regularly passed through by tourists as they head to more illustrious destinations, the Hikurangi Swamp can hardly be recognized as a swamp these days. Some prefer to call it floodplains, both in recognition of what it is naturally compelled to do, whilst also referencing that the land no longer holds its water. After all - what is a wetland without water to keep its feet wet?
Collaborating artists Lisa Clunie and Thorsten Hoppe ask us to draw our attention to this special place, through their exhibition wet_land. Responding to their local environment Clunie and Hoppe spent time in the repo/swamp photographing and recording it in all of its nuances. Central to wet_land are the stories shared, the result of the artists engaging with their community to weave together a narrative that talks about the complexity of place, kaitiakitanga (guardianship), land management and human intervention - a narrative that spans generations of memories, hopes and dreams. Over 90% of Aotearoa’s wetlands were drained during the course of the past century, and this practice is continued today. Although wet_land is intimately tied to Hikurangi itself, this exhibition relates to wetland preservation and land management throughout Aotearoa. The drainage of Te Repo o Hikurangi along with other repo that were designated as Drainage Districts in early 20th C, facilitated greater possibility for the Government to ‘enrich the Dominion’. The artists ask “since transformation is an ongoing process and an essential part of our existence, then what can we do in the present moment to learn from the past and to build for a better future”. Now is the time to reflect and rethink what value and these riches mean, and what they come at the expense of.
The sheer size of the Hikurangi catchment and floodplains make it a valuable part of our ecosystem. It was an important food basket, a place for gathering resources and a place for respite for local hapū. However, a difference in value sets and perspectives between Māori and European settlers saw increasing human intervention, to ‘cultivate’ what was deemed ‘unproductive’ land. The golden promise of higher yields of butterfat glowed on the horizon. These interventions straightened the once meandering Wairua river that made its way through the repo; channels were cut, oxbows severed, control banks built, and pump stations installed. It can be argued that this shift from thinking about the awa (river) as a living entity to that of an asset or a hindrance that needed to be ‘managed; has separated us from it. Mana whenua talk of their loss, not only of ecology and sustenance but also of spirit. The river that sustains us- and connects us all- now effectively a canal- one that some consider to be an open wound.
In wet_land Clunie and Hoppe try to present these issues in an open and non-judgemental way. Talking in polarities between groups of people does not bring them to the table, nor does it encourage mutual understanding. Clunie and Hoppe’s engagement with the community highlighted that every person has unique perspective and knowledge to contribute to the conversation. The artists do not seek to provide answers, rather wet_land asks the audience to consider their relationship to the environment, and how we can work constructively with nature and one another.
'wet_land has been dedicated to the late Allan Halliday (Ngati Hau, Ngā Kaitiaki O Ngā Wai Māori).
- Lisa Clunie, February 2021.
Photography Matters II