Ronnie van Hout was born in Christchurch, but now lives in Melbourne. His work explores the freak, the outsider, the reject. His public sculpture Quasi is a partial self-portrait. The giant hybrid face-hand is based on scans of the artist’s own body parts. It’s as if ‘the hand of the artist’ has developed a monstrous life of its own.
Quasi was created in 2016 to grace the roof of Christchurch Art Gallery following the 2011 earthquake. No longer required, it will haunt City Gallery’s roof this season, presiding over a Civic Square largely abandoned in the wake of our own 2016 quake.
There’s something wrong. ‘Quasi’ means ‘apparently, but not really’, ‘pseudo’, ‘fake’. It’s also a nod to Quasimodo, the deformed bellringer in Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Misshapen and misunderstood, he turned out to be a great tragic-romantic hero—a beautiful soul.
The sculpture certainly lived up to its name. Christchurch art critic Warren Feeney hated it and petitioned to banish it from his good city, penning his newspaper article ‘Ten Reasons Why Christchurch Art Gallery’s Quasi Must Go’. But perhaps the monster just wants to be loved (suggested by its shortened petname). Will it find a home in the capital? Will we adopt the monster Feeney didn’t have the heart to? Can Wellington see beyond appearances?
A joint project with Wellington Sculpture Trust, and supported by Wellington City Council, Wellington Community Trust, and Richard Burrell.