Projects 2018 at Auckland Art Fair
Francis McWhannell, co-curator of Projects 2018, discusses the ways in which Auckland Art Fair is seeking to reaffirm its commitment to the plurality at the heart of art-making in the Pacific.
When Auckland Art Fair relaunched in 2016 under new ownership, directors Hayley White and Stephanie Post set out to craft an event that would celebrate the art of Aotearoa New Zealand in all its variety and help forge connections with artists and galleries from further afield. In addition to featuring galleries from Australia, Chile, and the Cook Islands, the rebooted Fair incorporated a robust Projects Programme, which included work by less familiar and more experimental artists who would not otherwise have been present.
2018 sees the Fair grow still more diverse. New galleries have been added, from China, Indonesia, Japan, and the United States. A new section – dubbed Piki Mai: Up Here ^^ by anonymous artist duo Yllwbro – has been developed, featuring displays from art schools and artist-run spaces from Aotearoa, Australia, and China. The section is supported by the boutique accessories brand Deadly Ponies, which has also commissioned a work from Hannah Valentine, a recent graduate of the University of Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts.
Valentine’s work, an interactive display of bronze workout equipment, forms part of Projects 2018. Curated by Gabriela Salgado (Artistic Director, Te Tuhi) and myself, the presentation comprises work by 18 artists from Australia and New Zealand, most of them early-career practitioners. Several other Projects have received sponsorship, including an installation work commissioned by Lexus from Hikalu Clarke, a text work by Louisa Afoa funded by Creative NZ, and a mural by Christina Pataialii supported by CNZ and the Chartwell Trust.
The majority of the Projects are the result of an open call. Encompassing a variety of media, they meaningfully extend on the selection presented by participating galleries. Sarah Callesen has developed an installation incorporating both drawing and sound that responds to the Fair’s location. Tim Wagg has used digital/mechanical processes to produce acrylic adornments and enigmatic images on stretched silk. Karen Rubado has woven a hanging from discarded electrical cables, teasing out the material richness latent in such everyday refuse.
The artists of Projects 2018 treat a multiplicity of issues. Socio-political concerns are especially evident. Raukura Turei has produced abstracted images of her own naked body in oil pastel, alluding to female desire and questioning the extent to which women and people of colour retain sovereignty over their bodies. Harry Culy has documented the cultural and physical environments of the Hawke’s Bay. His poetic photographs suggest the tension between beauty and banality, flourishing and degradation in New Zealand’s ‘provinces’.
Angela Tiatia looks at an important event in the history of the Asia-Pacific region, the Battle of Singapore, using this as a means of considering the effects of catastrophe more broadly. By contrast, the anonymous FIGMENT explores a contemporary phenomenon from elsewhere: police shootings of innocent African American people. Sharp line images of the guns used invite us to consider our responsibilities as global citizens, and to consider parallel structures of fear and bias in our nation of few guns but many non-white prisoners.
The interests of other artists are more immediately formal or sensual. Isabella Loudon’s hanging sculptures tease the viewer with their apparent weight and durability but actual lightness and fragility, evoking the human tendency to present a strong front, despite internal precariousness, vulnerability. Scarlett Cibilich playfully riffs on that 20th-century staple the monochrome, playing with materials associated with painting in unexpected ways, testing the boundaries of medium and tradition.
Despite the absence of a central theme or curatorial conceit, interesting points of commonality have emerged. For instance, Kay Abude and Emil McAvoy both use text to explore questions of work and remuneration in the art industry. McAvoy and Billy Apple® both present advertisements – the former calling for a living wage for art writers, the latter promoting his long-standing From the Collection series with a vinyl-cut ‘hoarding’ of characteristic visual punch and wry humour.
Light-heartedness is found in various works. Stationed behind The Cloud, not far from Michael Parekowhai’s infamous Lighthouse, Jade Parks’ Camper Project gently burlesques New Zealand’s tourism industry, campervan culture, and do-it-yourself ethos, while genuinely testifying to the artist’s resourcefulness. Anonymous artist PĀNiA! picks up on the ‘avenue’ layout of the 2018 Fair, creating a series of Sticky Tape Tāniko signs that direct visitors up to Piki Mai and her presentation there with artist-run space Mokopōpaki.
With a panoply of art works by emerging and more established artists of Māori, Pākehā, Pacific Island, and Asian heritage, Projects 2018 plugs into a central objective of the Auckland Art Fair: to develop connections between artists, dealers, and members of the general public from Aotearoa and abroad. If art fairs are characterised by partitions for the display and sale of art, they can also contribute to the breaking down of barriers, and indeed must strive to do so in the face of the misguided wall-builders of the world.
- Francis McWhannell, co-curator of Projects 2018
To see what’s on at Auckland Art Fair, visit artfair.co.nz/whats-on.