11 June 2008

Battle of the Triffids

Currently on show at Te Tuhi, Pakuranga is Land Wars, an ambitious multi-platform exhibition curated by Emma Bugden, which looks at the ways land is contested in our present age. John Hurrell has reviewed the show on his eyeCONTACT blog.

Amongst the usual contemporary range of documented sites and actions, relational projects and moving image footage, there is a set of intentionally old-fashioned looking paintings by Michael Shepherd. Michael is the master of artificial aging and could probably paint a convincing looking plasma screen and still have it look like it was made 50 years ago. He was also acknowledged with a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MoNZOM?) for services to art in the latest Queen's Birthday honours list.

I was particularly taken by the wall-label description of his work in Land Wars, which proposes an interesting analogy between the serried ranks of garden centre products and fascist processions:

[...] The three works exhibited here consider changes to the natural wilderness through human intervention. In this, Shepherd includes destruction through development of land but also well intentioned acts of cultivation which unwittingly have an impact on reshaping nature.

The painting Versailles refers to perhaps the most famous garden in the world, the Ch√Ęteau de Versailles, described by the artist as the “ultimate constructed landscape”. In Shepherd’s version the formal garden of Versailles is replaced by the Oratia Native Nurseries in the Waitakeres, where native seedlings are laid out waiting to be purchased and planted, a precise and somewhat unnatural arrangement which the artist has likened to a “Nuremberg rally for plants”. [...]

Here, for your own consideration, are the battlegrounds of ORATIA and VERSAILLES.

Image: Michael Shepherd, Versailles 2007/8. Oil on linen. Courtesy of Jane Sanders, Auckland

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