At the galleries: Elliot Collins and Daniel Crooks

By T.J. McNamara

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Daniel Crooks for(; ;) from Vanishing Point by Daniel Crooks
Daniel Crooks for(; ;) from Vanishing Point by Daniel Crooks

What: Vanishing Point by Daniel Crooks
Where and when: Starkwhite Gallery, 510 Karangahape Rd, to August 22
TJ says: The tapering perspective of railway and tramlines carry us into an array of strange places that constantly change though the rails never do.

A German television station used to run, from midnight to 6am everyday, film taken from the front of a train going from Cologne to Berlin. The peculiar fascination of this was the ever-present tracks tapering into the distance.

Australian artist Daniel Crooks' art films have the same effect, but the focus has shifted from documentary reality to art by complicating the situation of those tapering lines in a variety of compelling ways.

In Vanishing Point, we move slowly forward over old rusty rails that seem to be coming to an overgrown end. Suddenly they pass through to new situations, under dimly seen bridges and other contexts, making an ever-changing vision with the tracks as the ultimate reality.

By contrast, in The Subtle Knife the viewer is not moving forward on the tracks but receding backwards with other scenes such as derelict sheds coming in from the side to transform the image.

The two most abstract of these photographic works present the rail lines vertically. In one, a gap in the rails opens and shuts and, ultimately, the lines dissolve into great swathes of colour, still all in movement. In the other, the vertical line remains still, passing over green vegetation which constantly moves and changes.

The most basic of these films - yet in many ways the most intriguing - shows tramlines running down a narrow alley between brick walls on the right and decrepit wooden walls on the left. In the distance is a sign. We move forward along the lines waiting to reach it but never do. There is a Kafkaesque enigmatic quality about this work.

Elsewhere, when human figures march around a labyrinth or the image falls into horizontal strips, the enigmatic and mysterious is lessened, but altogether this is a compelling series of modern art videos.

I Can Only Give You Now From Tourist to Pilgram by Elliot Collins
I Can Only Give You Now From Tourist to Pilgram by Elliot Collins

What: From Tourist to Pilgram by Elliot Collins
Where and when: Tim Melville Gallery, 4 Winchester St, City, to August 27
TJ says: Collins continues his colourful expressionist painting combined with classical lettering to address inclusion and human contradictions.

From Tourist to Pilgrim is a rather arch name that Elliot Collins has given to his exhibition at the Tim Melville Gallery. He established his reputation with his combination of classical lettering and expressionist painting.

One work breaks the mould, but is typical of the force of his addition of his aphorisms to an image. It is simply a map of the North Island inverted so that south is at the top and the shape takes on a different thrust. The rubric in red letters cut into the map is a sailing direction attributed to the legendary Kupe, STEER TO THE RIGHT OF THE SETTING SUN. This useful advice for voyagers to New Zealand from Polynesia makes a vivid image.

The lettering, which in the past was on the surface, is now laser-cut from pohutukawa wood and stands proud of the paintwork. The paintings are dense accumulations of touches of pigment and bright colours which are linked in mood to the message. I Can Only Give You Now moves around a bright, insistent red; Storm Approaching is dominated by an agitated blue and Exit Tide flows with light touches of blue and yellow in surging movement.

The feeling of these works extends to four related photographs. Dominating the whole exhibition is big solid lettering in the corner of two walls. It is a modified quote from Walt Whitman's Song of Myself telling us that our cultural contradictions should be celebrated. It adds to this exhibition of deft, clever painting and clear expression.

What: In the Head of Humans by Mikala Dwyer
Where and when: HopkinsonMossman Gallery, L1/14 Putiki St, Arch Hill, to August 27
TJ says: the first solo exhibition in Auckland by this Australian artist uses spectacular abstract geometry drapes and hanging objects to give a sense of ritual and ceremony.

In the Head of Humans, Mikala Dwyer is much more spectacular, but more complicated and puzzling in effect. All the work, which oscillates between sculpture and painting, is either draped or hung.

A typical work, Backdrop for Base Matter is a huge canvas beginning high on the gallery wall draping down and extending several metres across the floor. There are concentric circles of colour both on the wall and floor and two triangles drive across them to meet at the centre, which is in turn dominated by a rectangular shape.

Everything is in intense colour, but the combinations are jarring, clashing and at odds with the geometric harmony of the shapes. They indicate ritual and emblem. There are two closely worked statue-like objects in ceramic, one brown and one gold, on the floor laid like tributes. It makes a spectacular visual event where the viewer expects symbolism, but it is evasive.

The effect is repeated in Backdrops for Rounders and perhaps, more specifically, in Backdrop for St Jude where the shapes are less symetrical and the curious ceramic is supported by a staff.

These big works are only half the show. Dwyer is known for her sculptures of diverse objects hung on a line. The Squaring, with hanging squares of bronze, ceramic, Perspex, steel and silk, is between the big paintings.

A similar but even more varied work called Charm for a Wall is in the smaller gallery as well as three works with plastic head shapes and eyes surmounting ceremonial drapes. Coloured fluorescent lighting in the gallery makes for shifting highlights across the heads of these works and they reinforce the ritualistic, shamanistic effects of the whole show.

- NZ Herald

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