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For The Feral Splendour: Owen Connors, Laura Duffy, And Aliyah Winter

Exhibition preview: Friday 28 January, 6pm (artist talk at 5pm)

Exhibition runs: 29 January – 6 March 2022

‘For the feral splendour’ suggests the motivation for doing something: making a sacrifice, stating an intention, offering a justification. It’s an incantation, or the response to a strange question. In this exhibition works by Owen Connors, Laura Duffy, and Aliyah Winter engage with ideas about that which is natural, unnatural, supernatural, and the transformative potential of queer narratives that connect these things. The project is informed by thinking about mysticism, healing, and stories which are at once fear-inducing and liberating.

Owen Connors, Autotomy (detail), 2022. Egg tempera on board, pigmented shellacked macrocarpa frame with oxidised silver beech detail, 600 x 700mm. Photo: Sam Hartnett.

Connors’ paintings are made with egg tempera on board, built up slowly layer by layer. The work returns to an apocryphal story from Connors’ childhood, where his dad recounted balancing on a felled log and having to leap over a swung axe in a feat of bravado. Amplifying and bending this remembered story with its elements of rural gothic, the painting includes multiple self-portraits of the artist. In the accompanying work a scarred ankle and foot is haloed by a sun flare, maybe a transcendent incarnation of the earlier story. Winter’s textile banners, suspended from the gallery ceiling, are also drawn from images of the artist’s face and hands, alongside those of starlings’ wings, a Latin text which translates: “Do not speak of god without a light”, and other icons including a crystal, a star, a luminous alien. They fall from the ceiling, or, ascend from the ground. Duffy’s steel sculptures are bodies of metal—steel, resin, wire, strip lighting—that stoop and crouch as if in rapid motion, or, like the slower movements of ageing or transmutation. Some hold translucent plates of plant matter including gorse, thyme, dandelion, and gay flower, along with raspberry and dirt and spit.

These works are made by three artists who are friends, developed separately but in conversation. Although the practices and media are significantly different, the works share an unruly and often acutely beautiful relationship to states of transformation, ecstasy, queer bliss. Near the end of CAConrad’s poem from which this exhibition takes its name it reads: in a future life / would we like to / fall in love with the / world as it is. Does this imply a kind of resignation to the world in its state of unwellness, ecocide, and extreme inequality? Or does it mean something else, like, a kind of ‘falling’ where love informs all our actions, a relationship to the world as it is—feral, splendid—rather than for what we can extract from it?

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Owen Connors is based in Tāmaki Makaurau. Past exhibitions include Incubations, Robert Heald Gallery, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, 2021; For Future Breeders, Parasite, Tāmaki Makaurau, 2021; DUIRVIUS (with Laura Duffy), Blue Oyster Project Space, Ōtepoti, 2020; and SISSYMANCY!, play_station, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, 2019.

Laura Duffy is from Turanganui-a-Kiwa and has been living and working in Te Whanganui-a-Tara for the past decade. She works between video, sculpture, and installation. Duffy is interested in exploring queer pleasure or joy derived from failure, error, and disgust. Recent exhibitions include Spawn, ACMI, Melbourne, 2021; Maybe Someone is Starting to Bloom, PARASITE, Tāmaki Makaurau, 2021; Candy-Coated, The Dowse Art Museum, Te Whanganui-a-Tara, 2021; DUIRVIUS (with Owen Connors), Blue Oyster Project Space, Ōtepoti, 2020; and Thinking about Thinking about the Future (with Aliyah Winter), Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau, 2020.

Aliyah Winter lives and works in Tāmaki Makaurau. Her research based practice extends across photography, video, and performance, and often draws on historical material, with a particular focus on language, voice, and the queer body. Recent exhibitions include HYPNO.MATRIX, Parasite, Tāmaki Makaurau, 2020; Queer Algorithms, Gus Fisher Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau, 2020; An affinity of hammers, HOBIENNALE, Nipaluna Hobart, 2019; Puawānanga, with Angela Kilford, WAITHUI Billboard Project; and Hardening, Enjoy Contemporary Art Space, both Te Whanganui-a-Tara, 2018. Her work can also be viewed online at CIRCUIT Artist Film and Video Aotearoa.

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With thanks to Ananda for their support of the opening event.

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