CURATOR Aaron Lister PUBLICATION essay Aaron Lister
Rohan Wealleans is known for layering paint, colour upon colour, then carving into it. The Auckland-based artist is obsessed with paint’s literal, material qualities, but he is equally concerned with metaphor. In his work, paint is always transforming, becoming something else. Wealleans conjures up fantasy and science-fiction worlds, full of quests, spells, and other enchantments. His work has been called both shamanistic and chauvinistic.
For this show, Wealleans has transformed two enormous props from old TV shows. The Wizard of Forgotten Flesh embellishes a monumental male figure from the discontinued TV series Legend of the Seeker, while The Psychosis Chamber of the Oracle repurposes a giant Kevin Smith head from Xena: Warrior Princess.
The Wizard commands the gallery space like a figurehead from a ship’s prow. Critic Megan Dunn describes it as ‘an ex-fun-park figure, perhaps a marooned castaway from Rainbow’s End’. His coat is studded with paint crystals. A blue glass ball rests at his neck. He holds out his right hand, raw with pink paint.
In The Psychosis Chamber, Kevin Smith’s giant hollow severed head—lying on its side—has been turned into a grotto. You can enter its white interior, adorned with paint stalactites, sheepskin, and cushions. A Bratz doll—with no eyes and customised with scallops of white paint—holds another blue ball.
The show also features an array of forty-eight abstract paintings. Paint layers are excavated and petals of paint are peeled back and fastened with coloured pins, as if Wealleans were less painter than surgeon. Small cones and crystals of paint rise up, like miniature mountains on topographical maps. According to the catalogue, the paintings tell the Wizard's story, starting with his conception and birth, passing though his training and his abduction by aliens, to his final epic battle.