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August 20, 2012 | by  | in Arts Visual Arts |
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Review – Colour And Line

The two upstairs galleries of the City Gallery have just opened their new exhibits, providing the viewing public with a compelling comparison of the way in which composition and audience engagement affects the way in which a gallery space can operate. In the Hirschfeld Gallery Between Lines: Peter Gouge and Zoë Rapley the works of two very different artists have been juxtaposed to playfully incorporate the walls and the open space in an artistic conversation which the viewer is placed inside. Rapley’s work ‘Tract II’ is a long strip of paper, suspended from the wall, which unfolds lengthwise across the gallery space. Dotted around the surrounding walls Gouge’s small but visually emphatic works provide an interesting counterpoint to the whimsical simplicity expressed by Rapley’s work. The intensity of colour and composition in Gouge’s works is breathtaking in its complexity, but through his use of small cubes of colour they retain a sense of very clear direction and shape. When compared to the flowing form which they accompany, Gouge’s pieces have an inherent vibrancy which provides an interesting counterpoint to the placid nature of Rapley’s use of line.

Through the wall line and colour are being translated onto a very different series of canvases, the skin and hair of the human body. Sui faiga ae tumau fa’avae takes the term installation to its extreme by installing a tattoo studio and barbershop into the gallery space. Three Tatau artists are feverishly at work in the space, creating a world of ambient sound with the intermittent hum of the needles buzzing in the high sonorous space. It is a little daunting entering the Deane Gallery, it feels like you are invading a intensely private relationship between these extremely talented artists and their customers. This is quickly overcome by the friendly and engaging men, and yes it is a palpably masculine environment, who exude confidence and are clearly excited to be able to communicate their work and ethos to new people.

The Taupou Tatau crew has been invited to temporarily close up their shop on the corner of Dixon and Victoria Streets and relocate to the Deane Gallery. They are still operating a commercial venture but have shifted it into the gallery context. The write up from the consistently innovative and personable curator of the Deane Gallery, Reuben Friend, focuses on the historical and cultural trends that this exhibition references. He goes into detail about the traditions of the pe’a and malu tattoos and explains how these artists have taken these traditions and contextualized them in the urban environment. It was summed up much more clearly by my wonderful guide, whose name I unfortunately forgot to ask, as a mash up of tradition and everything else. The three people receiving Tatau when I went in were all getting very different designs but the works all had an unmistakable Pacific flavor, were unique and were stunningly beautiful.

Accompanying the business of the three booths is a massive graffiti mural containing the emblem of the group who is at work. The other wonderful thing about this exhibit is the sense of family exuded by the participants. There about 15 people there when I popped my head in and the feeling of community in the space was not exclusive, I was immediately welcomed in. While it raises some interesting questions surrounding commercial art, the role of the viewer as a participant and where Pacifica art is heading, the real charm of this exhibit is the beauty of the works being created and the warmth and earnest fervor with which they are being realized.

Both of these exhibitions approach the way in which line and colour can be utilized, in staggeringly different ways. I left with far more questions than I went in with in and in my eyes that’s a sign of an innovative exhibit; one which challenges assumptions and breathes life into the space. You can also go in for a new hairstyle from Killa Kutz, just book first at 

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