Saturday, September 08, 2012
  Shigeyuki Kihara: A lament for the lost
Published NZ Herald September 7, 2012

When the judges did the initial cull of the 502 entrants for the Wallace Art Awards, all they saw of Shigeyuki Kihara's work were two stills. They did not see the whole 4.49 minute video until after rating most of the other 118 finalists, but as judge Warwick Brown said, all three judges immediately made it their top pick, the first time a multimedia work has taken the supreme prize.
More than anything else in the show, Galu Afi: Wave of Fire justifies the Wallace's status as a premier contemporary art prize - and with the cash and residencies totalling more than $160,000 it's also one of the most well endowed.
Kihara will spend six months in residence at the International Studio and Curatorial Programme in New York.
Born in Samoa in 1975 and raised in Japan and Samoa before coming to New Zealand to study, Kihara's art training came through immersion in fashion (including studying fashion design and technology at Wellington Polytechnic in 1996), theatre, dance, hip-hop and electronic music.
"Producing fashion shows and shoots and gigs led me to understand how I could use those production skills to pursue my own work," she says. "I pretty much had to source the studio, the models, the clothes. They don't teach you that at art school."
Kihara has built up a vocabulary of forms and techniques that allows her to move beyond core themes like racial and gender identity and colonisation to add a powerful poetic element.

Like the work Siva in the Home AKL show at Auckland City Art Galley, Galu Afi is an extension of The Last Taualuga, which was performed at the Asia Pacific Triennial in Brisbane in 2002 and subsequently in Melbourne, with a recording of that performance now held by Te Papa.
That piece was inspired by an image of a Samoan woman wearing a Victorian mourning dress. It was taken by Thomas Andrew, a New Zealander who moved to Apia in 1891 and made a living making studio portraits and images for the booming postcard industry.
"When I found the photo, I wanted to understand the context of how this came about," Kihara says. "Then I thought, 'wouldn't it be amazing if I could see her performing the taualaga - maybe I should do this myself.' Whenever I am performing it, she is on my mind, she is the muse behind my performance."
In Samoan culture, the taualaga is a dance of celebration. Kihara wanted to explore how it could function as social commentary. The fact that many of the images of classical non-western cultures come through the colonial gaze and studio creations of photographers like Andrew has given many post-colonial and indigenous artists a tool to reclaim their image.
"Colonial administrators and missionaries enforced rules on Samoans to appear civilised, including wearing clothes. Only in the photography studio were we asked to take off our clothes and become the noble savage, dusky maiden, heathen cannibal, for the gaze of photographers who wanted to make money from the postcard boom.
"New Zealand was part of that image-making industry of Samoan people, and those early photographs set precedents for the racism that continues today."
Galu Nia and Siva are both laments for the 2009 tsunami in Samoa, American Samoa and Tonga that killed at least 189 people, and were done in the same day-long session, with Rebecca Swan on camera and Kirsty MacDonald in the editor's chair. While taualuga also usually involves music, lyrics, sound, the artist has turned the dance into a silent movie.
"Performing the taualuga in silence was awkward at first but the more I was in the studio with my production crew, I did a couple of takes as soon as I found my rhythm then I was able to pursue it. It's shot in real time so in my choreography I have to manipulate and slow down certain movements based on how they would be used in post-production to show the tracking.
"If you YouTube taualuga you see the speed of performance is drastically different from mine, so I am not performing a taualuga but the movements are informed by it."
The camera was shifted from a vertical axis, which emphasised the full body undulations of Siva, to a horizontal shot that captured Kihara from the chin to the waist, with the attention on the hand movements which become multi-tracked. The effect could be seen as a metaphor for the inexorable movement of water swallowing up the horizon.
The early photographic references are to Eadweard Muybridge and Etienne Jules Morey, whose pioneering of stop-action photography to capture motion was a crucial step in the development of cinema. The title was lifted from a book by Lani Wendt, commissioned by the Samoan Government to gather recollections of tsunami survivors.
"I thought her translation of galu awhi as waves of fire was brilliant, water that behaves like fire."
Kihara's Living Photographs exhibition in 2008-2009 at the Metropolitan Museum in New York - the first New Zealander to show there - means there is already keen interest in her work in North America.
She will be breaking up her New York stay with commitments in Ottawa, Germany, Australia and Samoa, and also intends to reach out to diaspora communities in Utah and San Francisco. A priority is to spend time in the Margaret Mead Hall at the Natural History Museum going through the archived material behind the anthropologist's Coming of Age in Samoa.
"I want to unpack and repack the controversy. The book became a best-seller, it contributed to the feminist movement, modern thought and the ways Americans think of their own society, but after Mead's death many of the women she interviewed in American Samoa came forward to say everything they told her was based on lies."
How that will manifest itself in future remains to be seen. "All my work is research-based and the work is created in response to my findings, so it's a post-studio practice, where the studio is in my head," she says.
Who: Shigeyuki Kihara, paramount winner of this year's Wallace Art Award
Where and when: The Award Winners & Travelling Finalists, Pah Homestead, 72 Hillsborough Rd, to November 11; Salon des Refuses, Pah Homestead, to November 18
  The conundrum of blurring reality
Published NZ Herald August 25, 2012

Faced with Jude Rae's paintings of bottles and vases, the cursory observer might drop the M word: Morandi. More rewarding may be to ask why they are not like the work of the Italian master of the still life.
"I am much more attached to describing than Morandi was," says Rae, back briefly to open the show from her base in Sydney. "I would not presume to have the extraordinary ability Morandi had of combining description with something that is more to do with the way paint sits on canvas in a sort of abstract, non-figurative way.
"I flail about at the descriptive end of things and I would love to be more in command of what I am doing but then I don't want to be Morandi either. He is as much of a touchstone for me as Chardin, or Cezanne."
It was Morandi who declared, "Nothing is more abstract than reality," something that resonates with where Rae has gone. Most of her work is still life, although there is the occasional exquisitely rendered figure.
She describes still life as "the lab rat of genres" - which is why it was so important at the turn of the 20th century when painters were coming to terms with the impact of new technologies like photography.
"Still life is not just about formal relationships. To me it is about the ability to sit there and question my perceptions in a very quiet sort of frame and the obvious comparison is when I substitute objects like bottles for a person and that is an entirely different experience.
"It nudges philosophical and existential questions in a very practical way - there is another person in the room, and that is a very confronting and complicated situation and I find it sort of horrifying and fascinating at the same time."
Assembling elements for a still life is the starting point for a painting, not the end point. It's about making choices, but also setting limits. "The interesting thing about working in a representational or realist idiom is that it sort of mucks up the formal perfection of your own little world, you can't just do what you want to do. There are elements of chance. There are other considerations, such as me wanting to neutralise a lot of the suggestive or symbolic freight that certain objects carry with them, that tends to bleed through to a lot of still lifes, so there may be a nostalgia or there are readings attached to an object."
The latest work has more colour than other recent shows, something Rae thinks is cyclical in her work.
"It comes and goes. I think I am getting more confidence," she says at the age of 56. "I don't have to worry so much about what I do and that brings me more engagement with the palette. I think it is pretty arbitrary, it just happens to be the framework I work in. I just want a reason to put a cool blue against a warm French blue and I'm referring to the background and the tabletop, but it sort of doesn't matter."
She occasionally leaves underpainting exposed, in particular a translucent burnt sienna.
"Most of the paintings are cool, so the red functions to enliven a primarily cool palette," she says. "I used it strictly as underpainting for a long time. Then I started contriving to reveal it in ways that were a self conscious allusion of the constructedness of the technique."
That is part of Rae's broader agenda as a figurative painter to use elements from the 20th century abstract tradition.
"Having looked a lot at Robert Ryman and other painters who approach painting as object, I am sorting my way around. I suppose it's part of my attempt to understand painting for myself.
"It articulates for me the growing certainty that there is no such thing as representational painting, all painting is abstract, and painters since time immemorial have approached painting as object, but the foregrounding of that in the 20th century caused a chasm to develop between painters."
Rae says her painting is a dialogue with her father, a gifted painter who was unable to pursue his passion.
"He studied at the Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney which was like this 19th century colonial outpost of the Slade and he came of age just at the point after the war when the finer points of figurative painting weren't exactly in the forefront of anyone's mind ... As one inherits from one's parents, I grew up with his sense of disappointment. I also now realise he wasn't actually fitted to operate in the art world, he was too internally tumultuous and contradictory."
Rae herself earned a diploma in drawing and painting from the Julian Ashton school before completing a bachelors degree in art history.
She moved New Zealand in 1990, doing a fine art masters at Ilam in Christchurch. She says the shift was the best thing she could have done. "It got me out of the place [where my father was] and allowed me to invent myself.
"From that distance I was able to embrace the idea that has pretty much pushed me along, that it must be possible to find a contemporary articulation for the sorts of values that informed the best of his painting and the best of the painting that came out of the 19th century."
What: Jude Rae New Paintings
Where and when: Fox Jensen Gallery, corner McColl and Roxborough Sts, Newmarket, to September 29
An online possie for Adam Gifford, a New Zealand journalist specialising in information technology, Maori news and the arts.

My Photo
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
October 2005 / February 2006 / April 2006 / May 2006 / May 2007 / June 2007 / July 2007 / August 2007 / September 2007 / November 2007 / December 2007 / February 2008 / April 2008 / July 2008 / November 2008 / December 2008 / February 2009 / March 2009 / April 2009 / May 2009 / June 2009 / August 2009 / October 2009 / June 2010 / September 2010 / October 2010 / December 2010 / February 2011 / March 2011 / April 2011 / July 2011 / September 2011 / November 2011 / January 2012 / May 2012 / July 2012 / September 2012 / August 2014 /

Powered by Blogger