CURATOR Gregory O'Brien PUBLICATION essays Gregory O'Brien, Anne Loxley
Noel McKenna’s naive-looking paintings have been shown widely throughout Australia, and, in recent years, in New Zealand. The Sydney-based artist has had three solo shows in Wellington and was included in our 2003 show Parihaka.
Including paintings, sculptures, and ceramics from the past fifteen years, Sheltered Life is imbued with the connotations of 'home'. The paintings Caravan at Beach (1999), Woman Writing (1999), and Boy’s Room (2004) involve a common subject—the shelter, protection, and the intimacy of interiors. However, their execution is characteristically detached, even laconic. The sculptures House (1990) and Appliance Heaven (2004) are doll houses lit by home-job wiring.
McKenna's suite of seven cylindrical vases refer to Colin McCahon and feature words from Wellington poet Jenny Bornholdt referring to Victoria University’s controversial 2003 sale of McCahon’s painting Storm Warning.
McKenna plays on the space between between interior and exterior, the sheltered life and the exposed one. Many of the works refer to artificial lighting and its effects. In the gallery, he dims the lights to mimic twilight or sunset.
In the catalogue, curator Gregory O’Brien explains: 'While Noel McKenna is a teller of home truths, he also remains a purveyor of mysteries—an archaeologist of undercurrents in the urban/suburban environment.'