Smoke Signal

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Media Release: March, 2007. 

Smoke Signal  brings together the work of three Wellington artists: mixed media artist Terry Urbahn, recent Massey graduate Murray Hewitt and photographer Gavin Hipkins.

The exhibition explores the great outdoors; mystical meanderings and boys’ own adventures with quirky, theatrical and sinister undertones.

Murray Hewitt’s installation Burnings (2005) displays the documentation and remnants of ritualistic suburban fire play. It’s not the typical garden burn offs or Guy Fawkes celebrations. In Hewitt’s work goal posts are set alight by a figure wearing a white hooded gown that is part Ku Klux Klan attire, part child’s homemade ghost costume. Hewitt says ‘This work aims to create discussion about ‘media rugby’ and its associated culture, touching on religious passion, propaganda and distraction… The ideas are presented with a ‘westie’ or ‘bogan’ aesthetic, humorous but at the same time unsettling.’

‘When we think of the New Age, aromatic wafts of smoke from burning incense tingle our nostrils.’ So Gavin Hipkins begins the essay accompanying his suite of photographs published in Landfall (208, November 2004). Hipkins, a finalist for the 2002 Walters Prize, is currently taking part in The International Studio and Curatorial Programme in New York. Smoke Signal contains a small selection of photographs from this New Age series (1992-2003). These moody, landscape photographs are overlaid with a ghostly trace of curling lace and strings of beads. Is it perhaps a visual imprint of the spirit of the place, mysteriously caught on film?

Terry Urbahn’s Twin Peaks (2005) is a conglomeration of white lumpy plaster forms and twigs. Standing like the remnants of some craft project gone amuck, they also possess a kind of mysticism. Have these trees, mountains and forms been constructed in abeyance to some supernatural being? Does the photograph present us with an idol or a devout follower? Urbahn conjures up a Blair Witch-type experience with a DIY approach that is as wilfully shonky as it is scary.

The Michael Hirschfeld Gallery is devoted to the work of Wellington artists.

Smoke signal: Murray Hewitt, Gavin Hipkins and Terry Urbahn

17 March—17 April 2006

Michael Hirschfeld Gallery, City Gallery Wellington