Compilation: Hamilton in June

From Peter Dornauf’s review of Between the lines at the Wallace Gallery Morrinsville:

“In the same show, Justine Giles takes marking making with ink and watercolour to photorealist heights so that the simulation of a postcard or page of found text is replicated in such immaculate detail that the distinction between the artefact and art is obliterated. There is nothing here “between the lines”. Reality and simulation are one.”


There is so much art activity going on at the moment in the Waikato that this review, of necessity, has turned into a compilation album.

The Wallace Gallery in Morrinsville has become the hot place to be and be seen, and recently a group show entitled, Between the Lines, show-cased the work of artist, Rose Meyer. Her unique process of mark making involved the use of a device that creates an automatist line Max Ernst would be proud of.

Her trick to producing a random series of lines on paper – a chaos of swarming marks or a bird’s nest of linear configurations that fill up an A3 size page, involves an ingenious methodology.

She built a little ‘tray’ on wheels, punched a hole in the middle through which she fixes a pen. This device is then placed inside an A3 box with matching size paper and then the…

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Change in perspective: Between the lines

Justine Giles I wrote this in a language I can't read

Justine Giles, 2014. I wrote this in a language I can’t read. [Cut-out and graphite on vellum, 594 x 841mm]

I was asked once, in my undergrad years, if I only valued work I had laboured over. At the time, without any hesitation, I said “yes”. It seemed so obvious then that hard work = worthiness.

This work came to me all too easily, springing fully formed into my head as if someone had whispered it to me, as if it already existed and just needed me to carry it into the waking world. Although the cutting represents some careful labour, when I think about this work it’s to puzzle over how uncharacteristically quickly it came together.

This is the work that let me trust my instincts.

The hard part of this work has always been in its installation. It is so understated that it can disappear (it’s almost impossible to document).

This is the third time it has been installed.  The first time was at Whitecliffe for the Masters mid degree assessment, the second time as a finalist for the 2015 Glaister Ennor Award at Sanderson Contemporary. Now it is showing as part of Between the Lines at the Wallace Gallery Morrinsville.

I feel like in this install it is finally complete. Positioned on a short end wall, it subtly invites a side view where the tonal shadow gives way to the writing that can be seen traced in light on the wall.  This is how it always should have been shown: all it needed was a different perspective.

Cockatoo Island: Embassy of the Real

Last week Mary and I travelled to the Sydney Biennale for the Vernissage where we spent three days exploring the art. The title of the 2016 Sydney Biennale is The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed, the works exhibited are divided into seven embassies of thought:

  • Embassy of the Real – Cockatoo Island
  • Embassy of Translation – Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
  • Embassy of Spirits – Art Gallery of New South Wales
  • Embassy of Non-Participation – Artspace
  • Embassy of Transition – Mortuary Station
  • Embassy of Stanislaw Lem – Mobile book stall
  • Embassy of Disappearance – Carriageworks


This post focusses on the Embassy of the Real.

Housed on historical Cockatoo Island, the Embassy of the Real is concerned with the body, physicality, space, and oddly a bit of the psychological. There is a sense of balancing the tangible outer world with the less solid realities of the mind.

William Forsythe, 2013. Nowhere and everywhere at the same time, no. 2. [Automated pendulums].

William Forsythe’s work consists of a long room strung with numerous pendulums that move on automated tracks, so that they are perpetually swinging. The viewer becomes part of the work by negotiating the space.  In order to avoid being hit by a pendulum, the viewer must move in and out, conscious of their steps, the pauses, and at the mercy of the prescribed (and automated) rhythm. Artist and choreographer Forsythe draws attention to our understanding of our own bodies, without music, he turns us into dancers.

This work left an enormous impression on me.  Art work that can “do” something to the audience is very powerful. Despite my art education, I have to admit that I am usually resistant to art that wants me to participate in a physical way: I am a thinker, and I like to approach things in my own time and on my own terms… that and I’m pretty awkward. I cannot explain what magic Forsythe wove here, but I could have played in this room for hours. This artwork made me reassess my body not just as a vehicle to move my brain around, but as a presence in the world, a physical manifestation with sophisticated perambulatory ability (although in fairness I was hit by a pendulum once).

Bharti Kher, 2013-15, Six women [Plaster of paris, wood metal, 123 x 61 x 95.5cm each] 

Exploring the body in a different way is Bharti Kher who presents six naked women sitting on wooden stools.  The women are cast in plaster from real-life models, the detail so convincing, it is almost as though they are living participants that could at any moment shift on their stool, raise a hand, or open their eyes.

The women portrayed are New Delhi prostitutes, and for me they question ideas of vulnerability: “Critically, the vulnerability of the women stems only in part from their nakedness; Kher’s sitters were sex workers, paid by the artist to sit for her, in a self conscious transaction of money and bodily experience” (Biennale of Sydney, 2016, p. 53).

There is a certain vulnerability in nakedness certainly, but I was also struck by the apparent age of some of the subjects: wrinkles, slouched shoulders, a certain birdlike fragility… and yet, these women have an undeniably strong presence in the room. Perhaps because they are not alone, they command the space. The more time I spent with them the more powerful they seemed, their stillness, their identical positions heightened their individuality. I stopped noticing their humble stools, and the raised platforms they sat on began to suggest to me majesty.

Chiharu Shiota, 2009/2016. Flowing water [beds, black thread].

The psychological was certainly at play in the work of Chiharu Shiota.  Installed in one of the island’s barracks Shiota draws her audience into a psychological dream space. The work consists of institutional metal framed beds leaned up against the walls behind a web of black threads that repeatedly criss-cross the space.

When we encountered this installation it had stopped raining outside, and we entered through a doorway that was still dripping run-off from the eaves. Going inside was like entering a different state of wakefulness, somewhere between the dreams and the daylight.  The thick web that enmeshed the walls and lowered the ceiling also seemed to create the illusion of mist, despite the bright light and sunny skies that had appeared outside. The threads were suggestive of something organic, a web, a nest, a network of connective tissue (the microscopic made massive). The beds connected this to the unconscious, or semi conscious, and was suggestive not only of the moments between dreaming and waking (or waking and falling asleep) but also suggested sickness, hospitals or institutions, entrapment.

Emma McNally, 2014-16. Choral field 1 – 12 [graphite on paper, 215 x 304cm]

I suspect people who draw are often drawn to (haha) other people who draw. Emma McNally’s impressive giant drawings absolutely captivated me.  The works are installed on large wooden supports, and are placed facing in different directions, the audience approaches the work across a zigzag boardwalk on the floor.

The works themselves are incredibly complex charts mapping unknown (imaginary?) territories.  They vary from intricate and precise to expressive and smudgy, suggesting a complex battle between chaos and order.


Hunter dreamer stranger thief

Exhibition opens at the Depot Artspace gallery in Devonport.

February 6 – 24.

Themes of space and time, the ghostly, the dreamlike and the poetic criss-cross throughout Hunter Dreamer Stranger Thief and create parallel lines of investigation. The works of Anderson, Claxton, Giles and Mickell encompass a range of mediums including photography, installation, and drawing. Each artist follows a different trajectory, yet common elements have created a web of interconnectedness between their art practices.

The words Hunter Dreamer Stranger Thief roll off the tongue like an incantation, or a chant to accompany a schoolyard game evoking predictions of the future. The archetypes seem distinct: the Hunter is searching for something, the Dreamer explores fantasy, the Stranger is the outsider looking in, and the Thief takes while no-one notices. Though each archetype carries its own connotations, they all emanate a contradictory aura of both the poetic and the everyday. Looking closer, each of the characters relies upon the traits of the others: the Stranger benefits from the Dreamer’s optimism, the Thief requires the Hunter’s prowess, we are never just the one thing.

Are you my motherland?

Are you my motherland? Or the myth of nationality from the diary of an antipodean interloper.

2015 Cabinet exhibition Whitecliffe College of Arts & Design.

PART ONE: Foyer cabinet

Justine Giles, 2015, If you lived in this box     Justine Giles, 2015, If you lived in this box(detail)

Justine Giles, 2015. If you lived in this box you’d be home now [cardboard, marker pen, stick]


PART TWO: Library cabinet

Justine Giles, 2015, The things we (never) leave behind Justine Giles, 2015, The things we (never) leave behind2 Justine Giles, 2015, The things we (never) leave behind3

Justine Giles, 2015. The things we (never) leave behind [Nana’s embroidered table runner, sprouting potatoes, dimensions variable].


Are you my motherland? Or the myth of nationality from the diary of an antipodean interloper.

Nationality, unlike race or culture, is arbitrary.

Parliamentary debates about changing the New Zealand flag, as well as the issue of extending New Zealand’s quota in response to the refugee crisis, have brought issues around nationality to the foreground in recent months.

What constitutes nationality? Is it a birth certificate? A passport? Citizenship? Having a family history in a particular place? In a country formed through migration, we all have stories from other places that have helped construct our identities.

If nationality is based primarily on happenstance, distilling our diversity into a cohesive symbolic identity is problematic; we don’t all fit into the same box.

And if nationality is so tenuous, how can we make decisions on who does or does not belong?



Glaister Ennor Graduate Art Awards

Glaister Ennor Art AwardsLeft to right, top to bottom: Sione Faletau; Joanna Neumegen; Dan Nash; Stephen Ellis; Ryder Jones; Brent Hayward; Rebecca Frogley; Elle Anderson; Justine Giles; Alexander Bartleet; Anne-Sophie Adelys; Riley Claxton; Alexa Mickell; Amy Blinkhorne; Lucy Meyle; Kerryanne Wilson

The Glaister Ennor Graduate Art Awards evening was on Tuesday and Whitecliffe’s own Riley Claxton and Alexa Mickell both received awards:  Riley won the Barfoot & Thompson award, and Alexa won the Glaister Ennor special award selected by the Glaister Ennor staff.

The overall award went to Stephen Ellis of Unitec.


The Glaister Ennor Art Awards exhibition is on at Sanderson Contemporary, Newmarket from Wednesday 27th to Sunday 31st May.