Media Release: December, 2013.
South of no North, an exhibition that places the work of Australian painter Noel McKenna (Australia) alongside his international peers, photographers Laurence Aberhart (NZ) and William Eggleston (USA) opens at City Gallery Wellington on Saturday 14 December.
Spanning painting, ceramics, video and photography, the exhibition brings together three artists whose works are connected by an interest in the every day, a regional sense of place and a similar visual sensibility.
All three artists create intimate scale works and employ centrality in their compositions. The subject matter ranges from architecture, environments and signs to people and interiors, images captured on travels across America’s deep south, New Zealand’s North Island and Australia.
Eggleston and McKenna create colour snapshot-like images while Aberhart’s toned black and white silver gelatin contact prints engage with a stricter formality.
Eggleston originally trained as a painter and is known as a pioneer of colour photography. His dye transfer prints shook the photography world and launched a photographic style called the Democratic Camera, the idea that anything, no matter how inconsequential, is worthy of photographing and becoming the subject of art. As a young artist in the early 1980s, McKenna was struck by Eggleston’s images and their focus on the commonplace.
Highlights in the exhibition include Eggleston’s Untitled (Memphis) (1970), an iconic image from his early work featuring a tricycle that looms gigantically, dwarfing all around it and adopting the view of a child.
McKenna taps into child-like wonder too through his series of paintings of ‘big things’ such as the Big Pineapple, Big Orange or Big Penguin – a very Australian civic obsession.
Aberhart’s portrait of his daughter lying on a roof next to a ladder leading to the sky, Kamala, Lyttelton, September 1981 (1981), reflects on being a child and the swift passing of life. His gaze often falls on things in the process of disappearing, such as childhood or the built environment. McKenna first discovered Aberhart’s photographs in the early 1990s.
On the work of all three artists, curator Glenn Barkley said: ’They are akin to short stories where emotions and narratives are condensed into rich and provocative sensations. And while they do reflect the everyday world, they also make manifest the power of art to alert us to the wonder and poetry that is all around us.’
South of no North is a touring exhibition by The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA).
South of no North: Laurence Aberhart, William Eggleston, Noel McKenna
14 December 2013 – 9 March 2014
City Gallery Wellington, Civic Square
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Laurence Aberhart (b. 1949 Nelson, New Zealand. Lives and works in Russell, Northland, New Zealand)
Since their emergence in the mid-1970s, Laurence Aberhart’s black and white photographs have become an indelible record of the New Zealand landscape. His 8 x 10 inch black and white contact prints comprise a detailed and ongoing investigation of New Zealand, its people, landscape and history.
William Eggleston (b. 1939 Memphis, TN, USA. Lives and works in Memphis)
William Eggleston’s body of work forms an eccentric, aggregate portrait of Memphis, Tennessee, and the Mississippi Delta. Eggleston records this world, not in muted shades of black and white, but in raw, sometimes garish hues. In 1976, Eggleston was the subject of the first exhibition of colour photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The exhibition gave a new artistic legitimacy to colour photography, which until then had been deemed suitable only for advertising and commercial work.
Noel McKenna (b.1956 Brisbane, Australia. Lives and works in Sydney)
Noel McKenna has been exhibiting since 1978 in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong and Ireland. His work explores the everyday, his practice encompassing a variety of media including painting, printed works and ceramics. He has travelled extensively, often making works about his travels. A perambulist and bicycle rider to this day, he believes it is the best way to discover the true spirit of a place.
Noel McKenna, Priest in a room, 1988, enamel on cardboard. Collection, Rockhampton Art Gallery Image courtesy the artist and Darren Knight gallery, Sydney and © the artist
Noel McKenna, Boy dressed as Batman 1991, oil on plywood. Courtesy the artist and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney and © the artist. Photograph: Simon Hewson