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From Our Beautiful Square

Lucy Gunning, Climbing Around My Room, 1993 (production still), video installation, 7:30 minutes. Courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali, New York.

From our Beautiful Square

  • Opening event: Saturday June 26th 4:00 – 6:00pm.
  • Floor talk with Jeremy Leatinu’u and Salome Tanuvasa 3:00 – 4:00pm.
  • Jeremy Leatinu’u (Ngāti Maniapoto/Sāmoa), Salome Tanuvasa (Aotearoa NZ/Sāmoa/Tonga), Amy Jean Barnett (Aotearoa NZ), Józef Robakowski (Poland), Hiraki Sawa (Japan), Lucy Gunning (UK)
  • The Booth: Deanna Dowling (Aotearoa NZ)

From our Beautiful Square considers dualities of time and interiority by reflecting on a period of global lockdown with artworks that consider the nuances of time, change and movement. Featuring major new site-responsive commissions by leading Aotearoa New Zealand based artists, this exhibition foregrounds the importance of contemplative moments and responses through paint, sculpture, sound and moving image.

Motion and change are key themes in the exhibition, and are expressed in a new object-based installation by Jeremy Leatinu’u titled Building monuments and folding forts upon a slippery ocean and a moving sky. Drawing on his experiences of warehouse labour, the artist will employ methodologies of stacking and building to create a series of changing sculptural configurations throughout the exhibition’s duration. Using the mass and materiality of cardboard boxes as his sculptural objects, Leatinu’u invites audiences to join him during each re-configuration and watch as new forms are created. A box is a vessel, container, shipment, carrier of goods, object to be moved and stacked and a commonplace item for workers, yet it may also be a metaphor for housing, change, motion and temporality.

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Occupying the ornate Dome Gallery is an ambitious site-responsive project by Salome Tanuvasa that brings the artist’s painting practice into dialogue with the gallery’s Art Deco architecture. In her artistic practice, Tanuvasa’s immediate surroundings play a key part in her response, informing her decisions around scale, form, colour and gesture as she searches for something satisfying within her language of marks and strokes. Often working in intimate domestic settings, Tanuvasa’s project for Gus Fisher Gallery sees the artist’s practice extend beyond usual methods to a context layered with other histories and stories. Working in situ, with an internal logic of visual language that is in dialogue with her locale, the artist’s major new commission is an especially exciting one.

Introducing a sonic element to the Dome Gallery setting is a newly commissioned sound installation by Amy Jean Barnett. In this work, the artist has sourced hydrophone recordings from scientists at the Leigh Marine Laboratory who research the underwater soundscape in the Hauraki Gulf. Using these hydrophone recordings, Barnett has rearranged this material into a spatial sound composition. Responding to the gallery’s location on the original shoreline of Auckland, Barnett’s work reminds us of our wider context and what it means to listen to an environment rarely experienced.

The exhibition features three films which are brought into dialogue with the site-responsive artworks. From My Window by renowned filmmaker Józef Robakowski captures a snapshot of life viewed from his apartment window in Łódź, Poland over a period of twenty years. Starting in 1978, Robakowski filmed small episodes of everyday life that happened within the 20-storey high rise complex where he lived – a building ironically named the Manhattan of Łódź. Filled with anecdotes about his neighbours to commentary on pivotal social and political events taking place during his filming, the artist’s attentiveness to his surrounds is increasingly apparent. Witnessing so many changes, the film draws to a close as planning permission is granted for a five-star hotel to be built in front of Robakowski’s building, obstructing the view from his window in 1999 and ending his 22 year visual diary.

Adding elements of fantasy is Hiraki Sawa’s famed film Dwelling where a fleet of miniaturised aeroplanes glide around the confines of an apartment. Blurring domestic and imaginary space, the aeroplanes launch and land on any available surface, the hum of the aeroplane engines a reminder of their gargantuan proportions in reality. Ever timely and poignant in 2021 when international travel is heavily restricted, Dwelling recalls the allure of travel and the prospect of fantasizing its return. Furthering a meditation on interior dreamscapes is Lucy Gunning’s captivating video installation Climbing Around My Room, a fantasy born from hours of idle introspection alone in one’s bedroom. In the video, we see a woman in a red dress traversing the confines of her room. We witness her strength and resilience as she contorts her body between and on top of shelving, moving along skirting boards and hoisting herself up to rest her foot on a coat hook. Presented at Gus Fisher Gallery in its distinct Art Deco interior, Climbing Around My Room, brings a heightened awareness to interior spaces and the physical and psychological spaces which can confine or frame us.

Accompanying the exhibition is a solo presentation by Pōneke based artist Deanna Dowling in The Booth—an architecturally distinct area that once housed the building’s original telephone booth. Working in a site-specific way, Dowling will reveal the past treatment and history of the booth’s surface through an invasive process of sanding and buffing away layers of paint as means to reveal traces of interactions within lived spaces.

Key to the exhibition will be a series of dynamic public programme events that will encourage reflection on our relationships between self and space. Consisting of talks, screenings, workshops and performances, the public programme aims to engage with criticality and collectivity, from dance to craft to cooking under lockdown.

In different ways, the artworks in From our Beautiful Square address the collective experience of restricted movement, both physically and psychologically, offering an opportunity to rethink ideas of locality. It is by looking to their immediate surroundings, and prioritising the quiet, slow and meditative, that these artists grapple with a sense of space as one that is both individual, shared and part of a wider global context.

Jeremy Leatinu’u, Building monuments and folding forts upon a slippery ocean and a moving sky, Studio Study, 2021.
Salome Tanuvasa, Untitled, 2021, acrylic on unstretched canvas. Photography by Kallan MacLeod.
Hiraki Sawa, Dwelling, 2002 (video still). © Hiraki Sawa. Courtesy James Cohan, New York.
Józef Robakowski, From My Window (video still), 1978 – 1998, 19 min 51 sec. Courtesy the artist and MOCAK the Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow.
Amy Jean Barnett, Hauraki Gulf: hydrophone location, 2020.
Courtesy of Deanna Dowling

From our Beautiful Square

  • June 26 – September 4, 2021
  • Exhibition open Tuesday – Friday 10 - 5, Saturday 10 – 4
  • Gus Fisher Gallery
    74 Shortland Street
    Auckland Central

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