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Urban Art

Lucy Chapman

Visual Arts


So far we have only looked at Wellington’s main art galleries, the ones that everyone knows quite well and goes to on a regular basis. Well, now it is time to take a look at what is happening in Wellington’s smaller urban art galleries and this week I bring to you five of the best. So wear black on black, bring your sketchbook and follow me as we do the great Wellington art trip…
Hamish McKay Gallery
50 Willis street
Hamish McKay, a dealer gallery, is currently exhibiting a small collection of works from England. The eleven artists on display are all from a group called the Bart Wells Institute, which was a space established to show these up-and-coming artists. However the Institute was disbanded when they were kicked off the premises. Anyway the Hamish McKay has a small sample of the diverse forms of art that were produced. Generally, all the works seem to elevate low art to high art. The exhibition includes a cow’s head made out of vinyl, Sellotape® constructions, various tools and paintings.
Michael Hirshfeld Gallery
City Gallery, Civic Square
The Michael Hirschfeld Gallery, housed in the same building as the City Gallery, is dedicated to exhibiting Wellington art. The current exhibition by Dorita Hunnal, Sven Mehzoud and Lee Gibson is one of the best installations I’ve ever seen. The piece is a response to their entry at the 2003 Prague Quadrennial ‘The Heart of the PQ’. The work is basically two ramps that are elevated off the floor and that play with the concept of proportion and distance. The design is based on the idea of the theatre stage and of course you can walk up these ramps to get the full experience of the work. The clinical white plastic coating and the clever use of lighting is very 70s futuristic. In the right hand corner you can see a model of what the original installation looked like when it was exhibited in Prague. This smaller version of the work is no less remarkable.
Peter McLeavey Gallery
147 Cuba Street
On display at the moment are pieces from Auckland artist Brendon Wilkinson’s ‘Trip over my Lips’ collection. Wilkinson’s painting and watercolours look like something out of science fiction. Gigantic bugs, eerie green plant things and harsh council flat style buildings are prominent images in his works, which are supposedly based on his overgrown garden in Grey Lynn. The works are said to look at an interaction between the city and nature, as well as ideas such as surveillance and voyeurism. Although Wilkinson shows skill with a paintbrush, his pieces are surprisingly small and don’t do much to command the gallery space. The gallery also includes one of his models that are normally larger in scope, but which are highly detailed.
Bartleyness Gallery
147 Cuba Street
Handily housed in the same building as the Peter McLeavey, Bartleyness is another dealer gallery. Currently Bartleyness is showing an exhibition of art from Berlin called, Art From the Spielhaus Morrison Galerie. The three artists who comprise this exhibition all incorporate computer image technology to varying degrees into their works. Mikkel McAlinden’s hyper-realist work ‘Condensation’ is a photo of a woman in a bath and he has digitally added steam to give the image a heightened sense of realism that could not be effectively achieved through photography alone. Another piece of McAlinden’s excellent work is called ‘Undertow’, which uses digital technology to stitch together several photos of varying perspectives taken from the same mountainous/valley scene. The result is an amazing yet impossible landscape that plays with your idea of perspective and distance. Another artist, Jörg Scheibe, paints images that he has taken and then mutilated on his computer screen to create a liquefied mix of colours. The exhibition gives us a brief but appealing look at European art at the moment. This exhibition is a must-see as the use of computer technology is a direction to which art is increasingly moving.
Enjoy Art Gallery
Level 1 / 174 Cuba Street
For some artists art is hard work and for some, it’s a piece of piss. Well now it is actually a piece of piss with artists Ryan Chadfield and Tao Wells. Currently on display is their rather conceptual exhibition, which takes a look at death and beauty and Treaty of Waitangi issues, I think. Anyway, in one corner is a piece called ‘Pool Fun, Piss Pool’ which is basically a paddling pool with urine in it. Enjoy, as always, shows guts in exhibiting the up and coming New Zealand artists as opposed to the established artists that the other galleries prefer to show. Also on display is a piece called ‘Brown’ which is a decaying horse/cow head rolled in 100s and 1000s with two television antennae sticking out the top of it. Other delights include the New Zealand flag with a swastika instead of a Union Jack on it, broken glass on the floor and a skull-headed doll mechanically humping a soft toy. And on that note now is probably a good time for a stiff drink and a lie down.
Thus concludes the art tour for today.