Francis McWhannell Writer and exhibition-maker

Two perspectives on New Perspectives

Artspace’s current exhibition, New Perspectives, features the work of more than 20 artists whose work has begun to make ripples in the local scene. Produced in collaboration with Berlin-based New Zealand artist Simon Denny, the show encompasses an impressive range of material, including eye-wateringly fine paper-based works by Motoko Kikkawa, visceral poems by Owen Connors (printed intransigently in black on black), and dollar coins faked by Matilda Fraser. It’s an ambitious exhibition, and essential viewing for all Aucklanders with an interest in art. Francis McWhannell and Lana Lopesi sat down to share some of their thoughts.

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Francis McWhannell: I suppose it’s sensible to start with the physical beginning of New Perspectives: the downstairs entranceway in the building that houses Artspace, where Huni Mancini’s ‘mood board’ work, Taʻovala (2016), is displayed, and the stairwell area occupied by Quishile Charan’s installation, Salty Tears and Sugarcane Fields (2016). I thought those two works related to one another really interestingly. Both to some extent explore multiple identities, colliding identities, and the negotiation of identities, though their approaches immediately appear distinct.

Quishile’s work is grounded in traditional practices: fabric dyeing with haldi (turmeric) and mud; printing that clearly makes reference to masi (Fijian tapa). Huni’s work, by contrast, employs digital collage, and feels much more urban. I also feel as though the works are quite different in temperament. Though that’s perhaps a function of my knowing Quishile and her practice to some extent, and not knowing Huni at all.

Lana Lopesi: I’ve always thought that Quishile’s work has a strong aesthetic dimension. She has a clear visual language. And I think in a way Huni’s trying to do something similar: to find a visual language to talk about these ideas. Huni uses an ironic fashion aesthetic that was really popular when I going through art school. It’s something I’ve never been aligned to myself, but I was drawn in to the word ‘diaspora’. The title, Taʻovala, is borrowed from the Tongan mat worn round the waist by both men and women, which I read as an approach to something that’s non-gendered. But what I find most interesting is the conscious use of an aesthetic sensibility that connects to the artist’s peers, millennials living in diaspora, while also subtly referring to something of a traditional homeland. …

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Francis McWhannell Writer and exhibition-maker

About

Francis McWhannell (b. 1985, Aotearoa New Zealand) is a writer and exhibition-maker based in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland. He is Curatorial Adviser for the dealer gallery Visions, and Curator of the Fletcher Trust Collection, a major private collection of Aotearoa art founded in 1962.