City Gallery

Past exhibition

Gavin Chilcott and Ralph Paine: Scheme

30 November 1991–16 February 1992

CURATOR Gregory Burke SPONSOR Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council

Scheme—a commissioned installation by Gavin Chilcott and Ralph Paine—is presented in conjunction with the group show Home Made Home, which explores design and domesticity. Chilcott and Paine have collaborated on several shows in dealer galleries, but Scheme is their largest project and the first in a public gallery. They also involve others in the project, including Errol Barnes (potter), Paull Cox (cabinetmaker), Dilana Rugs (rugmakers), Noel Lane (architect), Martin Poppelwell (studio technician), Colin Slade (chairmaker), Elizabeth Smith (upholsterer), and David White (cabinetmaker). The artists start off working at a distance, with Chilcott based in Christchurch and Paine in Auckland. They get together for two weeks in the Gallery to complete the work in situ.

The project takes a cue from medieval scrolls, which often incorporate contributions by multiple writers. Over six months, the Christchurch-based Chilcott and Auckland-based Paine post paper scrolls back and forth, adding to them, generating a graphic dialogue. Scheme culminates from this exchange. The artists are also attracted to another type of ‘scroll’—gratuitous decorative flourishes of penmanship. Paper scrolls and scroll motifs feature throughout the show. A large scroll unfurls down a wall and across the floor, pinned by a chair. Rolled-up scrolls gather under a table.

The show’s centrepiece is a large folding room divider, itself suggesting a scroll. On one side, Paine and Chilcott draw various signature motifs to suggest a landscape (an exterior world). On the side, they hang framed decor-style abstract paintings (an interior one). The screen is sandwiched between two arcing, bare-plywood walls, with display windows cut into them.

Other arrangements suggest various kinds of domestic spaces and functions. One suggests a bedroom. The artists make a large collage of manila envelopes, lay it on the floor, and place two pillows on top, to suggest a double bed—turning their once distanced postal collaboration into a cosy quilt for two. Another suggests a sitting room, with an armchair (upholstered with canvas painted by the artists) and four round Dilana Rugs of the artists’ cartoon-like symbols: a pipe, spectacles, house slippers, and a smoker's pipe with spectacles. There’s also a workspace: a trestle table scattered with letters, sketches, and plans—the actual table they worked at, in situ.

Chilcott and Paine’s deconstructed ‘intended dwelling’ scrambles conception and realisation; private and public; the domestic home, the artist’s studio, and the gallery. It’s rich in deliberately half-baked ideas that viewers are left to sort through and make sense of. The abandoned working table suggests that the show is provisional. The artists could return at any moment, rearrange things, add stuff.

‘Crossing Over’—a discussion held in tandem with Home Made Home—explores interdisciplinary art-and-crafts practices. The panel includes Paine, plus John Scott (President of the Crafts Council of New Zealand), Kate Wells (fibre artist), and Duncan Dempsey (Inscape Design).