In New Plymouth over the weekend, I saw 'New Nature' at the Govett-Brewster. Curated by new-ish director Rhana Devenport, the exhibition:
draws on the ideas of biologist Tim Low to investigate the endlessly mutating shifts between the natural world and the many and varied cultural readings of nature.While the show didn't feel quite as gutsy as Greg Burke's 2003 'Bloom' exhibition, which tackled a similar subject, there was some nice stuff in there. Interestingly, the only New Zealand artist included was jeweller Joe Shehaan, represented by half a dozen of his intricate greenstone carvings.
... New Nature looks at the impact of human habitation, nature as ‘tamed’, ‘interpreted’ and ‘framed’ and something deeply imbued with metaphorical content. It also investigates the reciprocal influence of the environment on community and ecology. Historical, allegorical and culturally specific readings of wilderness are reference points as notions of natural spaces and materials are questioned. The slippages between ‘natural’ and ‘constructed’ worlds become fertile, if aberrant, sites for new visual languages and perceptions to grow.
My favourite things in the show were Brisbane artist Michael Zavros's paintings of fashion stallion centaurs, in which slim male models are grafted onto sleek muscular horses, and his small sculpture Black Ice.
The works stood out both in medium (the majority of the work in the show is digital) and in their unabashed sexiness - a surprise ending to the show.
Michael Zavros, Yves Saint Laurent Le Smoking/Bay, 2006. Oil on canvas, 195 x 250cm.
Michael Zavros, Black Ice, 2007. Bronze, 17 x 7 x 16cm. Both images from Zavros's website.