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Swamps inspire dark and dirty art

Swamps under Auckland and Dunedin cities inspire dark & dirty art

Swamp City
Daniel Unverricht
27 June - 21 July 2006
Oedipus Rex Gallery
Khartoum Place,
Auckland City
Opening 5.30pm Tuesday 27 June

The history of New Zealand's cities is the history of the swamp. Daniel Unverricht explores both in his latest exhibition, Swamp City.

Since European settlement, swamps have been drained to build settlements that were to become NZ's cities, including Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin.

In Dunedin The Octagon was once pure swamp, drained in the late 19th century to build the centre of the city.

Christchurch was built on a swamp and as a result suffered flooding, foul smells and disease such as typhoid fever. The insanitary conditions resulted in 1874 with Christchurch having the highest death rate of all New Zealand cities.

The paintings in Swamp City feature night cities devoid of human presence, swamp men, mannequins and police dog. Dunedin and Auckland city nightscapes capture a sense of unease through their muddy fluid city roads. A German Shepherd sits on a swamp surface, alert and protective. A 3D steak, made entirely of paint, hangs nearby to sustain him. Half submerged mannequins stand in stagnant water like the debris of swamp reclaimed shopping centre. A military man (who resembles the character Locke from TV show LOST) stands in putrid green swamp water fighting an invisible enemy, watched by an audience of dark trees. Swamp men fight for supremacy on water-logged battlefields.

The violence of the men in these pictures does not at first seem to correlate with the swamp. However, history reveals that since civilisation men have waged wars that have reduced some of the greatest cities to rubble and swamp. Here the swamp beneath the city is turned upside down and becomes the city beneath the swamp.

Daniel Unverricht has been painting the darker side of New Zealand cities for the past 8 years. In recent exhibitions his work has focused on nocturnal abandoned urban landscapes. Earlier works looked beneath the concrete veneer to the isolated, fear ridden loneliness of modern life. In his new work Swamp City he digs beneath the city to find the muck of history that feeds it.

Daniel Unverricht has been a finalist in many art awards including the Waikato National Art Award, Nokia Arts Awards - Asia Pacific, National Drawing Award and the Norsewear Art Award. Last year he was runner-up in the BMW Art Awards and had work in Artists on their way, Auckland Arts Festival AKO5. He has twice been in the Wallace Art Awards touring exhibition of finalists and has twice won the Hawke's Bay Art Review supreme award. His work has been included in NZ museum exhibitions and Kyoto University Art Gallery, Japan. He has work in the collection of the Hawke's Bay Museum, Wallace Arts Trust and the collections of many of New Zealand's leading artists. He exhibits regularly in NZ, this is his fourth solo show at Oedipus Rex Gallery, Auckland. Daniel has an MFA from Elam, University of Auckland.


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