"Curator Jodie Dalgleish has given her Academy show the theme ‘Art on Life’, and indeed the energy instilled in the artists, and her placement of figures and gestures makes this an exuberant dance of an exhibition, full of the swings of what she calls a full life."
"Art on Life. This is a full life. This is life we know for what it is, and for what – perhaps armed with James Harcourts’ nail-studded shield - we hope it to be."
Curator Jodie Dalgleish on opening night. Read her full speech.
The NZ Academy of Fine Arts has put itself on the Wellingon arts map with its huge Summer show Art on Life. Bringing in Academy and guest artists from all over the country, this exhibition presents almost 300 works that take a look at life from a myriad of different angles, while, overall, it explores both darkness and light, pleasure and pain.
High-profile emerging artists, such as Dunedin-based James Robinson, present works that are central to the exhibition. Robinson’s major recent work, Taniwha, hangs in the middle of the gallery’s biggest wall. It presents an abstract wall-mounted beast thick with paint, glue, and resin, followed by fifteen long paper banners. Covered in small drawings and scribbled words these banners, like prayer flags, provide a contemplative centre for the exhibition. Bookending the gallery’s big wall are Auckland-based artist Glen Hutchins’ massive paint-smeared works The Ecstasy and the Agony and The Agony and the Ecstasy.
According to curator Jodie Dalgleish, Art on Life is ‘full-on’. It creates a lively, and sometimes dark, barrage of ideas and feelings that fully engage visitors. There are ‘clusters’ of works that look at things like the conflicts and resolutions of relationships, the quirkiness and beauty of everyday objects, and the way the natural environment reflects and shapes our moods. ‘It’s over-the-top,’ Dalgleish says, ‘but there are lots of quiet works and places within the exhibition that allow you to catch your breath.’
The Academy’s lower gallery quietly presents the works of artists exploring memory, fragility and loss. Of particular note is Dunedin-based artist Kate Fitzharris’s Walk – From Blueskin Bay to Wellington Harbour which involved her walking from Blueskin Bay, near Aramoana, to the Blue Oyster Gallery in central Dunedin, and her fellow Wellington-based artist Kyla Cresswell walking Wellington’s waterfront to The Academy’s gallery on Queens Wharf. Along the way both artists have rolled beads of beeswax to encapsulate whatever they found every few metres. These are presented as a looped single fragrant necklace-like strand that is over 100 metres in length.
Nearby, well known Wellington-based ceramicist Anneke Borren presents a pair of empty black and white pots. These relate to the time she spent caring for an elderly mother suffering from dementia, a woman who was no longer quite herself.
Academy President Ian Hamlin says “people are saying Art on Life is the best exhibition they have seen at the Academy in the last eight years.” When pressed on his view, he says people should come along and decide for themselves. “This is the new face of the Academy,” says Hamlin, “full-on and going for it.”