Friday 13 March 2009


This is the last weekend to see the Vivian Lynn exhibition at the Adam Art Gallery. I saw the show a couple of weeks ago, and it's been gnawing at me since.

It's sobering to realise that you can get yourself an art history degree - hell, even a couple of them - and still only have the shallowest knowledge of a reasonably well-known artist's work.

The Vivian Lynn retrospective certainly changed that for me. The show fills the whole building, and is an attractively displayed, comprehensive survey of a number of periods and key works.

However, it wasn't the show I expectedl. Prior to visiting, I was only really familiar with Lynn's Guarden Gates (currently installed in 'We are unsuitable for framing' at Te Papa), and I was expecting a harder-hitting, grittier show than the one I saw.

Walking into the Adam, the first set of works you encounter (I find the trip through the front doors pretty much erases your experience of the window work) was a collection of sketches grouped around a painting of an apple orchard (? - I didn't write down the titles of any of the works, and can't download the texts from the Adam's site) from the late 1950s or early 1960s. Immediately, I was in Jean Horsley/Suzanne Goldberg/early Peebles territory.

This sense continued with the drawings and prints on the top floor, and the collages on the ground floor - a growing feeling that Lynn's work fitted in with contemporary happenings, rather than tilting against it. The one piece that had real impact - that gave me a chill that didn't fade when I read the wall label - was Mantle, a 1983 work reconstituted for the show.

Interestingly, the work in its current form feels very clean and tidy compared to the documentation of its original presentation.

The intent of the exhibition was to 'canvass the diversity' of Lynn's practice, and I guess to place the well-known works within the context of the rest. Overall, I think it succeeds in this aim - whether that's made her work more interesting to me is still up for grabs.

Image: Vivian Lynn, Mantle, 1983/2008. Image from the Adam Art Gallery website.

No comments: