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Break: Towards a Public Realm

Media Release

5 December 2008
Break: Towards a Public Realm
Murray Hewitt, Fiona Jack, Louise Menzies, Kate Newby, Kim Paton, Peter Wareing
6 December 2008 – 1 February 2009

This summer the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery showcases the latest developments in contemporary art from Aotearoa New Zealand in Break: Towards a Public Realm.

Curated by Melanie Oliver, Towards a Public Realm is the fourth instalment of Break – an acclaimed series of Govett-Brewster biannual exhibitions.

This exhibition presents the work of Murray Hewitt, Fiona Jack, Louise Menzies, Kate Newby, Kim Paton, and Peter Wareing.

Curator Melanie Oliver says the artists take a diverse range of approaches, yet all share an interest in our socio-political processes, structures and histories.

“Employing various media and strategies, this group of artists critically examine the significance of the images, language and architectural forms that surround us. Specifically, they question the relationships that bind societies together, the systems that govern them, and the role that art can play in defining these.”

Whether electing to present their work in public places or within the gallery, each artist engages with their wider surroundings, suggesting artistic practice can act as public space.

“Their works are gestures or propositions for social alternatives. Addressing sustainability in all its forms - environmental, economic, socio-cultural - and the imperative to support local initiatives over global conglomerates, imperial or colonial powers, Towards a Public Realm posits the advocacy of community spirit as not quite so twee after all,” says Oliver.

Break: Towards a Public Realm opens at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery on 6 December 2008 and continues until 1 February 2009.

To celebrate the opening weekend join artists featured Towards a Public Realm in for a conversation on their work this Sunday at 11.30am.

Break artists include;

Murray Hewitt

With his distinct visual language, Murray Hewitt's video works contemplate consumer behaviour and natural resources, as well as the construction of New Zealand imagery and identities. Hewitt’s work will feature both in the gallery and offsite at local New Plymouth stores Mitre 10 Mega and Mementos.

Fiona Jack

In May 1943 a palisade fence was built by volunteers around the Ngati Whatua O Orakei papakainga (the traditional Maori village of the Ngati Whatua people of Orakei) in Okahu Bay on Auckland’s waterfront. The fence was an attempt to regain some privacy and maintain a sense of community in the face of encroaching colonial urbanisation, which was exacerbated by the construction of a major roadway through the village that separated the main living areas from the sea. Less than ten years later, the village was burnt to the ground and the inhabitants evicted without further compensation or a purchase agreement offered at that time.

In April 2008 Ngati Whatua O Orakei, Fiona Jack and New Artland organised a group of volunteers to reconstruct the palisade fence in the original location (now a public park alongside the roadway). It was then dismantled into sections that are now being used by communities for events throughout the country.

Louise Menzies

Responding to the ideals of the Citizens Advice Bureaux (C.A.B.), Louise Menzies found connections between the organisation’s values and her own interest in knowledge exchange, individual and collective agency. For Self Defence Against Falls (2008), a series of photographs based on collage works, Menzies juxtaposes C.A.B. print material and her own images and text with news media sources.

Kate Newby
Built of materials that are almost consistent with their environments, the two parts of Kate Newby’s sculpture Don't act all scared like before (2008) rest ambiguously, deflecting attention to their surroundings. Nudging into the footpath, a new structure shadows the low wooden fence that demarcates the public and private areas across the road from the gallery. Occupying a slither of the pedestrian zone, one feels aware of the passing foot traffic that must traverse around this fixture. Contrarily, Newby’s postcard image circulates through social networks, a memento that will eventually reside in personal effects.
Kim Paton

Kim Paton's wall drawing The Wal-Mart Effect (2008) maps consumer culture and the corporate structures that control our liberalised global economy. She presents a voice against our current production and consumption systems in favour of more equitable and localised trading schemes. Paton recently opened Independent Grocery stores in Raglan and Hamilton to provide an alternative to our supermarket duopoly and a similar trust in the possibilities of individual and community action underpins this work. Applied directly to the gallery walls, The Wal-Mart Effect embodies both the activist tone of graffiti and the format of an educational or business planning whiteboard, emphasising the architectural and social frameworks it is presented within.

Peter Wareing

Ivon Watkins-Dow, now called Dow AgroSciences, produced the herbicide 2,4,5 -T in the New Plymouth suburb of Paritutu from 1962 to 1988. It also produced one of the raw materials, trichlorophenol, from 1969 to 1987. Many people from the local community have expressed serious concerns about the health risks to workers from the chemical plant and those exposed to the dioxins which were emitted over the surrounding area, saturating homes and property within a four kilometre radius.

Peter Wareing's There are snakes in paradise (2008) focuses on ordinary people unknowingly poisoned. The personal interviews provide further information and viewpoints, implying this installation touches only the surface of this pertinent local issue.

Louise Menzies and Kate Newby

Located on King Street and within close proximity of the gallery, the facing windows of Expressions, an IDEA services daybase, are usually decorated with art, crafts and the central values of the organisation: empowerment, inclusion, responsiveness and support. For Thinking/willing (2008) Louise Menzies and Kate Newby have exchanged the gallery’s front window space with Expressions’, opening a conversation around the physical, social and political relationships between the two buildings, their services and the people who visit them.

Also showing

Liz Allan: How to dress for local conditions
6 December 2008 to 16 March 2009

LEE Mingwei: Uncommon Senses
6 December 2008 to 16 March 2009

Len Lye: Chronosome
6 December 2008 to 16 March 2009

7 February 2009 to 29 March 2009

Image: Fiona Jack with Ngati Whatua O Orakei Palisade 2008


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