Friday, November 22, 2013

Visiting the Objective Art Awards 2013

 by Caroline Griffin

Recently I visited the Objective Awards with Sarah and we talked about the exhibition and of course her work in the awards titled Time Parallel, which I must say on behalf of Left-Field collective, we are very pleased to see in this show.

Anna Rae (Mangere Arts Centre) and Sarah in front of Sarah’s work.
Photo: C Griffin
 We found at the entrance to the gallery a small white statue of a man with jeans and bare torso with brick-like goggles this interestingly is made from casting plaster. The title M.O.W2 left me guessing but I think something about a virtual gaming world with plaster models like my son painted years ago. The figure had an upward gazing stance somewhat searching or looking into the heavens. Anyway we were keen to move on into the room.

Firstly the light in the room is at its bare minimum so a moment is required to pause and adjust which I think is a good thing as it slows things down. On first inspection the walls are lightly filled with works and there are three cluster arrangements of glass covered plinths for the other works.

This year the show has fewer works than in previous years with twenty-four works in one room. The winner is a ceramic urn by Richard Stratton, second prize went to Fran Allison for her lei work - My Place, and third prize was awarded to Ross Malcolm for his brooch titled Pseudo Curio. Really nice to see two of the top prizes going to people (Fran and Ross) who we know from the Jewellery department at Manukau School of Visual Arts. Both works look at an aspect of Pacific history and how in different ways it has an impact on us and this follows the whakatauki for the exhibition; People come and go, the land remains.

What I noticed was there seems to have been a careful selection from the various disciplines of object making. There are 8 jewellery works, 7 ceramic works, 2 glass works, 3 woven works, and 4 other-type works. Our overall reaction was that it looks like the selection quality has been raised and that surely it must have been difficult to select from such a wide range of disciplines.

Sarah and I had a discussion about how within the different object making disciplines there seems to be more opportunity to push the boundaries with medium within jewellery and the jewellery community is actively doing this. Ceramics has a long tradition but is limited by its medium although I did notice polymer clay at the Portage Awards. It’s an interesting conversation to select from a diverse range of disciplines and talk about skills, boundaries and traditions. Not an easy task and I imagine a difficult task for the judges to choose the work. 

Sarah Walker-Holt, Time Parallel.
Photo: C Griffin
 I was interested to hear Sarah talk about her work. I know partly what her work is about but its ambiguous quality has always intrigued me. Sarah talks about the knowledge of the future generation is not learnt or passed on but believes it is somehow a part of us which is carefully tied in with her chosen medium of old wooden kitchen utensils. These old utensils have the patina and character of everyday use and carry knowledge of their owner. These are then dissected and rebuilt from a variety of different objects coming together in new forms which result in something that looks like it has a purpose of some sort but not obvious and not known.  Perhaps something which may jog memories and these memories of course will be different from person to person. For me there were memories of old wooden skipping ropes and worn timbers and sash ropes of colonial houses by the beach and in the background the kitchen utensil quietly nodding to its domestic roots. There is also a possible futuristic apoplectic quality to Sarah’s work where we revalue past experiences. Sarah supplied a kitchen utensil hook for her work to hang from the wall which cleverly dictates how the work is shown.

We were pleased to see Renee Bevan’s balloon pieces carefully placed in the show next white domestic-ware ceramics. Renee’s and Fran’s work both talk about the exhaled breath Fran’s perhaps the final exhaled breath whereas Renee is a more playful breath.

Ross Malcolm is known to us through the MIT jewellery department. His work is based on a flowering parasitical plant whose common name is woodrose and these brought back memories for me of when these woodrose could be found in souvenir shops in New Zealand years and years ago. I had completely forgotten all about them until seeing Ross’s work.

Our visit was fairly rushed and I felt I needed more time or an artist statement to access some of these works. The works have been left without their artist statements which I find rather intriguing as one was required for the judging but then deemed unimportant for the rest of us although the three prize winners have their statements printed in the catalogue. Artists are required to spend time on carefully writing these statements which I personally would prefer not to do, so I only think it’s fair to include them along with the work.

The Objective Awards close on the 1 December.

Caroline Griffin