The Wellington City Council art collection stretches beyond the local landscapes and portraits of grinning politicians expected of a civic collection. A commitment to collecting contemporary art necessarily turns attention elsewhere, towards practices that skirt around or behind such expectations. The Un-Sited brings together contemporary, predominately non-representational work that has entered the collection over the past five years. The exhibition is marked by an apparent absence of place, complicating the concepts of site and representation so central to civic collections.
Each of these artists test the workings of representation, and there are mutual concerns with materiality, surface resolution/irresolution, and the act of making. The shared interest in exploring the potential these studio-based actions have to work in and on the world reveals the exhibition’s central premise—that while these predominately non-representational works may appear to belong elsewhere or nowhere, they are heavily grounded in everyday experiences and the here and now.
Victor Berezovsky’s paintings are always subject to a physical painterly approach, and are often cut into, pierced and chiseled as part of an active process of ‘abstracting’. Trained at Ilam Art School, Berezovsky is indebted to an ongoing western painterly tradition, but forces his paintings to function in a variety of ways, often through drawing connections to alternative traditions (sometimes invoking his Russian heritage, everyday rituals, folk art etc). Before moving to Dresden, Germany in 2009, Berezovsky produced public art in Wellington, including Portal on the façade for the Freyberg Pool building in 2009.
Bronwyn Holloway-Smith is an artist based in Wellington. She is Director of the Creative Freedom Foundation, and brings these interests to her interdisciplinary practice which often explores the possibilities offered by new technologies, internet culture and virtual experiences, all strung together with a fantastical, science fiction faith in the promises of tomorrow. In 2011 Holloway-Smith will present a Letting Space project.
Simon Morris is involved in a decades-long engagement with the history, problems and possibilities of abstraction. Both committed to its forms and dedicated to teasing out or undermining its fallacies, Morris continues to push abstraction in all sorts of directions (project-based sites have included the turf at Jade Stadium and the Christchurch Botanic Gardens). Morris’ object-based paintings run in parallel with these site-specific projects, revealing their connection to the physical and temporal spaces in which they were produced.
Ruth Thomas-Edmond was born in Wellington in 1977, and attended Wellington High before studying at Elam Art School. She is interested in how painting and especially abstraction operates in both two dimensional and three dimensional form, and in activating a space somewhere between these realms. Her drawings hint at landscape, space, and skin—but these readings are always subsumed by the intensive, almost obsessive process of making and labour which grants them energy and form.
Molly Samsell is a Wellington-based artist who tests photography’s power to illustrate the limitations of vision, and in turn, perception and knowledge systems. Her ongoing project Interfaces was started as part of an MFA at Massey University, and is concurrently being represented in The Un-Sited and in an exhibition at Blue Oyster Gallery in Dunedin (until 5 March 2011).
Sandra Schmidt was born in Zwickau, East Germany in 1976, and has a Masters Degree in Fine Arts from the Academy of Fine Arts, Dresden. Schmidt lived in Wellington from 2002–2009, where she presented a series of exhibitions, installations and projects. Schmidt often uses fused plastic hama beads as the base material for her work, transforming a children’s craft activity into something more profound and sinister through a meticulous and time-consuming process of assemblage. Schmidt currently lives in Dresden, Germany.
Kate Woods is an Elam-trained, Wellington based artist. Her practice reworks found imagery, often connected to classic images of the New Zealand landscape lifted from sources like Whites Aviation photographs. This imagery is transformed into something alien and other through the concept of the ‘non-site’ drawn from land art of the 1970s. In 2010, Woods’ furthered this insertion of the non-site into the New Zealand landscape through a billboard project for Te Tuhi Gallery in Auckland.