The few of us up here at Vic who are old enough to have grown up in the ‘80s, long before those new fangled iPods, used to make up mix tapes to reflect the angst we were feeling. The soundtrack of our lives, we would sit by the radio and flick a C90 cassette tape into the tape deck (remember those, anyone?) and press the chunky record and play button down and listen to the high pitch whistle as the tape wound round. And no, the high pitch whistle was not just the sound of the tape deck mechanism creaking along, but the sound coming from the lungs of arena rockers…
With my cheap Warehouse 512MB MP3 player and $2 Shop headphones on, I made my way down town with tinny music ringing in my ears and popped into Toi Poneke Gallery on Abel Smith Street. On display were two local artists Ruth Korver and Kirsty Squire with Red and White: God I’m Blue and Cast Out and Pierced.
When you walk in you get whacked in the head with teenage angst. Local artist Ruth Korver has replicated the teenage pastime of making mix tapes and presented it in an artistic context. Lyrics from ‘80s arena bands are displayed on white canvas around the walls of the gallery, and angsty red paint splattered to represent blood from the heart.
Some of the iconic and cheesy (when you look back on them as an adult) lyrics that featured were “Shot through the heart”, “You’ll never have me”, “You’re to blame”, “I loved you once” and “I would be happy with just one night in your arms.”
Luckily there was no “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, because the music video for that used to really creep me out with all those choir boys with the glowing eyes…
You have to remember that this was pre-emo, as Korver explained, “My work celebrates popular culture, but it also demonstrates how trivial a lot of it is. I expect people who grew up in the ‘80s will have a different response to my work than those who have never heard of the likes of Poison or Bon Jovi. It would be nice to hear responses from people who don’t recognise the quotations,” says Ruth.
A keen video maker, Korver also had, around the corner in the usual handy spot with the leather seater, a video of a lone cowboy pacing around a stark background with jump cut editing creating a jerky effect. I couldn’t figure out whether this represented a broken hearted lonesome dove or a love rat who does the heart breaking.
Over in another corner, and thankfully not full of angst on the night was Kirsty Squire, but like most she isn’t immune from it. Instead of the usual teenage angst, hers in recent times has been of the existential kind. Wondering what to do with her life, as she says on her bio, “After three years of sweat, studying Industrial Design, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t like the prospect of designing washing machines in my near future.”
Knowing that she wanted to work within design, fashion and the arts, she wondered how she could incorporate all three. Finally Squire had an epiphany when she went to an exhibition at Avid Gallery on Victoria Street of Steph Lusted’s Jewellery, and it all just clicked.
Cast Out and Pierced came about when Squire discovered that there would be another jewellery exhibition on six weeks out from her own. Like many expressionist creatives she threw everything out the window, sat at her bench and made what she wanted to. As she said, “It’s my exhibition and I can make what I want.” This artistic statement and refusal to be constrained by conventional artistic restrictions is what impressed me about this exhibition.
It came through in her works, what eventuated was that the walls of Toi Poneke were dotted with her creative jewellery designs. Also prominent were life-size Polaroid photographs of people with the hand-crafted jewellery stuck on them.
If you want to see a good mix of media, you can’t go past going along to Toi Poneke Gallery at the Wellington Arts Centre on Abel Smith Street and checking out Red and White: God I’m Blue and Cast Out and Pierced.
Toi Poneke Gallery, Wellington Arts Centre
61 Abel Smith Street
September 5 – September 29