New York-based artist Martin Basher returns to his hometown with Blackberry Schnapps, an exhibition with its beginnings in a 2010 residency at the McCahon House studio in Titirangi.
Seeking out expressions of the utopic and the sublime in contemporary culture, Basher aligns painting and sculpture with the slickly produced and ultra-bright aesthetics of retail, consumer product, and commercial display. Recent installations as part of the exhibitions Freedom Farmers at Auckland Art Gallery and Display: Marketing as Art at Contemporary Art Galleries at the University of Connecticut were assembled from store-front architectural materials and racking systems that displayed paintings along with fabricated and found objects, all as products designed to seduce audiences by selling the promise of fulfilment or desire. Painting is offered up as the ultimate in consumer product, reliant for its meaning and value on the politics of consumption and taste.
Blackberry Schnapps is more firmly grounded in the experience of the studio and the act of painting. The epically-scaled banner at its centre started its life as the humble drop sheet protecting the floor of the studio at the McCahon house. The buildup of paint, dirt, footprints and tape is the after-images of months of work on two series of paintings. One of these paintings hangs on the banner itself, alluding to the long history of the painted backdrop as a promotional tool used to shift product in department stores and trade shows—a role now largely taken over by digital printing processes.