It came as some surprise today, to see the leaves of the lancewood were, in fact, cast metal. Elizabeth Thomson’s ‘my hi-fi, my sci-fi’ exhibition would be one of the best I’ve seen at the City Gallery in a very long time. I would compare Thomson’s work to the earlier exhibition of Bridget Riley, but whereas Riley’s work seems repetitive and dated, Thomson’s skillful casting and colouring serves to create work that is at once comfortably familiar and yet disconcerting in the context.
While the sculptures of the pubic hairs of unborn ants didn’t really work for me, the wave form cartesian planes recalling the gems of Paul Klee were luckily supervised by a security guard or I would’ve risked an exploratory prod – there’s something slightly mean spirited about creating a texture that begs to be touched and then forbidding people the discovery. The large bronze lancewood leaves with their subtle, yet vibrant colour main veins reminded me of the colour field work by Morris Louis, and the large scale work encouraged the spending of time to compare and consider the variations.
The magnum opus is the work that takes an entire gallery wall, created specifically for the City Gallery. Just like Bridget Riley, except this century, this country, this town, this gallery. On point, on purpose, on target. A great work, using cast, life sized pohutukawa leaves, from tiny to large, each beautifully coloured so they look freshly plucked from the tree. I wanted to photograph it. But you’re not allowed. I wanted a brochure so I could write about it. But there are no brochures. I wanted a catalogue. But they’re not out until July. July! The exhibition opened June 18. I wanted to find it on the web. But the counterhopper didn’t know if the gallery had the exhibition on the web site. I wanted to find it when I finally found the web site. But the big work is not there. Not even a mention. With the largest and most strategically located exhibition space in downtown Wellington, and a budget large enough to haul in international exhibitions, you’d really think the City Gallery might do better for a local (Newtown, for God’s sake, Newtown) artist. Bizarre.
I suppose that’s the sci-fi part after the hi-fi part…