In a November exhibition at the Bosshard Galleries, marking the end of his year as Frances Hodgkins Fellow, IAN BERGQUIST explored aspects of perception, questioning both the accuracy of our visual sense impressions and the reality of what we perceive or what we think we perceive. The theme is not new: European art of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is filled with disguises. . . the fragility of flowers, the evanescence of music and the impermanence of forms that change at the touch of a wand or with the passage of time.
Mirrors are a basic element in the symbolic vocabulary of the senses and of their treacherous deception, and Bergquist uses them (or rather a twentieth century variant, stainless steel) as the basis of two large free-standing sculptures (cf. Art New Zealand, no 3, page 11) and numerous small hanging works. But these 'mirrors' are deliberately and provocatively Unfaithful to the world they reflect, sometimes curved, sometimes partly painted, so that distorted and fragmentary images of what we 'know' to be real rebound from the polished surfaces. In the Baroque aesthetic at least, this infidelity led to an intellectual questioning of the validity of those impressions on which our 'reality' is based; the same lucidity is the basis of Bergquist's drawings, in which humour akin to that of the Dadaists and Surrealists, but wry rather than destructive or aggressive, marks Mirror Images, This is Not Here or Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, wash it out with Optrex. The incisive inner vision which identifies and plays with these ideas finds an appropriate and harmonious expression in the impeccable craftsmanship of these works.
The collection of recent sculpture by MARTE SZIRMAY which followed in December (a collection depleted I believe since its first showing in Auckland) displayed a radically different approach. The same meticulous craftsmanship was there: but instead of fleeting forms dissolving into nothing, we were presented with a vigorous affirmation of the reality and solidity of matter. The forms are both organic and mechanical in inspiration, stressing their double origin inert metal vivified by the artist's hand and sensibility. The surfaces are treated various1y: some sandblasted to a dark prematurely-aged patina, others painted in different shades of grey.
MARTE SZIRMAY Sculpture 1976
25 x 24 x 37 cm.
The association of colour with Marte Szirmay's sculpture can be seen at least as farback as the deep wine-coloured bases made for some large works in 1971, and more recently in the centennial sculpture commissioned for the Otago University Medical School. It contributes another element to the artist's formal vocabulary, but remains under tight control and shows no tendency to move towards the often sensual satisfactions which colour can give.
The crisp, clearly-defined forms are indicative of the linear nature of these works (although no working drawings were exhibited one assumes they did exist) and are frequently echoed by painted 'shadows'.