25 May – 7 June, Katie Mouat, Muse Gallery, Havelock North
A harried messenger is pounding up towards the Village precariously balancing an outsized display of white orchids: big heads on thin green threads. She in her domestic best; they arrogant and outrageously out of scale, a flock of seagulls signalling shore. It’s a poignant parallel as she passes the window at Muse where a suite of heavy vases holds, in each, an orchid. The weighty, but free- flowing, form of the glass balances perfectly the heady bloom of each flower: almost ikebana, but with a familial ease that nods to Mum’s flowers on the kitchen table at home.
All this is the welcoming committee for a collection from photographer Katie Mouat. Eight works, each a flower (or two) set in/on/over glass. The fragility of the bloom and the solidity of the glass bounce off each other as light hits both, chimes, sends a ray onto an edge, a table, a cloth. Each is a single moment, before time wilts flower, household reality clears table, shakes cloth, neat-and-tidies the display away. But caught on camera, blown up to a size multiple-times reality the ephemeral arrangement is held forever and made majestic.
Through carefully selected vessels and pastel toned petals the artist has created works that have a watercolour tonality and texture to them. It’s a trick that shows off her skill with light rather than any post-production wizardry.
Mandala Vision hints at symmetry but offsets balance with shadow and reflection, the temptation might have been to neaten up the dahlia hero but I enjoyed the organic echoing of the form. In Gold Water a single glint on the rim of the glass reminds us that such works are at their root simply light, rather than a rendering of the objects they capture. Ascension takes the motif one step further, doing away with all clutter. Here, just flower, stem, glass. No setting, no context. It makes divine the iris, with one crease, reminding us that nothing is perfect.
Mouat’s collection has a youthful innocence, an optimism, a purity. Many of the pieces speak of domesticity but there are a couple – both Crater Lake works – that hint at places further afield. There are echoes of lotus, mandala, ritual and aesthetic of India and South East Asia. I see the comforts of home in most but there are glimpses of far-off temples and sun-kissed new horizons suggesting Mouat is settled here, but still has one eye on future journeys.