CURATOR Allan Smith PARTNER Dunedin Public Art Gallery OTHER VENUE Dunedin Public Art Gallery SUPPORTER Creative New Zealand PUBLICATION essay Allan Smith
Australian artist John Nixon reruns classic strategies from historical avant-garde art: abstraction and the readymade. His show EP+OW (Experimental Painting and Object Workshop) presents works from the past ten years in dialogue with everyday objects the artist acquired in Wellington. 'EP+OW can be carried out in any world city where various local materials and objects are often used in the production of works for exhibition', Nixon says.
One gallery wall is painted flat red. Simple geometric abstracts—cross paintings, monochromes, and constructions, on a variety of supports—hang on walls and lie on trestle tables. Readymade objects—including big steel cooking pots, an old-fashioned bicycle, and an aluminium ladder—are also placed on tables, while a saw and a mallet are incorporated into paintings as collage elements.
Nixon’s installation turns the Gallery into something more provisional: a classroom, a laboratory, a studio, a storeroom, a refectory, or a workshop. Nixon says his combination of painting and everyday objects 'form a dialectical synthesis of the abstract and the readymade'.
The show's components are not flashy, but the effect is rarified. In his Frieze review, critic Robert Leonard writes, 'These shows may not be about expense or craft, but they are all about taste—a highly tuned and fetishised aesthetic, a mastery of the rhetoric of installation. Nixon picks this red, the perfect nails, the right pot. As much as he plays the humble worker, he is an aristocrat in such matters.'
Julian Dashper, Nixon's friend and occasional collaborator, gives a floor talk in the show wearing a pair of Nixon's jeans.