1–21 September 2019
In After Paintings, Vita Cochran ‘brings to life’ rugs that appear in paintings by Pierre Bonnard, Giorgio de Chirico, Sonia Delaunay, Fernand Léger, Henri Matisse, Gabriele Münter, Florine Stettheimer, Marie Vorobieff and Édouard Vuillard. Paying particular attention to elements of décor in painting, Cochran has composed a category inhabited by some less well known modernists as well as their revered peers. “As a viewer I’m often drawn to the supposedly secondary parts of a painting, the curtain in the background or the rug on the floor. It appears that the artists were often paying homage to these domestic forms, and, in the case of a painter such as Matisse, their paintings were made in a setting where ‘applied’ art was seen and valued as a vital form.”
Cochran’s rugs are intended to be walked on and used. They are literally a collection of textile remnants — woollen garments and blankets, cut into strips and hooked through a backing canvas in the manner of the centuries-old craft taught to her by her grandmother.
The texture of the translation is all important. Cochran suggests that because rag rugs are made of broad blocks of intense colour, they are an inherently ‘painterly’ medium. Their larger-than-life vibrancy encourages meditation on the imaginative space between life and art. The rugs are rendered ‘as seen in’ the paintings, rather than as reconstructions of the rugs that were originally painted. Surprising elements of the paintings are transported to the floor: One rug is cropped as it is in the painting; another is shaped as it appears in perspective; the rug based on a Léger incorporates the red legs of a table that rests on it.
Cochran is interested in the traffic between fine and applied art; how we value things we use that are made in a domestic context as opposed to things made in the fine art context. She says, “To rug ‘after painting’ is to rug later, obviously, but it is also to work ‘after’ in a larger sense. For many modernist critics, coming ‘after’ was seen as ‘following’, therefore as less innovative and less progressive. ‘After’ however allows for a more nuanced and unrushed appraisal of material culture and the ways it is valued.”
24 March – 26 April 2019
In 2008, a massive wall work by Mark Braunias was installed in the former bank building that now serves as Tauranga Art Gallery. Sally Blundell wrote, “This is a new bank, a memory bank, a vault of abstracted figuration cavorting in wild gleeful disharmony.” For the past twenty years, the provincial bank has occupied a considerable place in the day-to-day business and imagination of Braunias. From his studio sequestered in a former bank chamber in the remote Waikato coastal town of Kawhia, the artist has assiduously squirrelled away a formidable archive that chronicles his distinctive fusion of painterly abstraction and social observation.
Braunias habitually jokes to keep the seriousness of his endeavour at arms-length. Recently he has suggested that the vault has been rocking to a different tune — the strains of Yoko Ono’s 1972 ‘We’re all water’ — a song notable for its prescient lyrics including, ‘Someday we’ll evaporate together.’ From this source a new catalogue of luscious biomorphic characters known as ‘Fluid Mammalians’ have poured forth. The aqueous exuberance of this ensemble is attributable to the artist’s consummate handling of the reactive qualities of ink and acrylic. We are lured by the liquid language with which the artist considers the ominous future of mammals on this planet. As is characteristic of Braunias’ oeuvre, the content of the work and its formal life are indissoluble.