Into The Light

Until 13 August 2017, Hastings City Art Gallery

One of three photography exhibitions currently on at HCAG, in Into the Light Hawke’s Bay photographers respond to the review of New Zealand photography in the gallery beyond: See What I Can See.

In some ways this show feels a little hodge-podge, photographers reaching into their archives for a piece that meets the brief rather than creating fresh work, but perhaps that is appropriate: it is a retrospective they are responding to. As is often the case with HCAG’s recent collection of shows the hanging of the works, and the interplay between, shines.  Rakai Karaitiana’s stunning Ko Waipuka Te Whenua speaks directly to the intimacy and simple comfort of Richard Brimer’s Jerusalem Convent, hung directly across from it. Then in placing waterfalls across from rivers a conversation begins about the awe-inspiring and massive vistas of our land. Wild places; cosy places. Massive skies, endless landscapes; ephemeral, precarious homes.

Here is this haunting double persona of Hawke’s Bay: fixation on places almost too large to capture while at the same time creating art from what is ordinary, mundane, everyday. Helena Hughes’ tent internal with a patterning of tree shadow set alongside the vastness of Brimer’s Lake Waikaremoana delivers this perfectly. We are at home in tiny places and vast spaces, in the extremes and in the contrasts. Together the collection speaks of a classic family album: a personal, potentially insignificant portrait of a child pasted side by side with a postcard of a grand vista. Even the palette speaks of that: sepia, black and white, faded. Three from Matt Smith illustrate this as they move from insignificant plastic slide abandoned on a close-up patch of common ground, to extraordinary portrait of a boy, ball in place of head, then the overwhelming climax of Cloud #1.

Nova Paul’s moving image piece This Is Not Dying is a play on the thrumming heart of an active rural marae, bustling and vital but also nostalgic. It’s a tender and romantic piece and beautiful in its capturing and colouring. In it we recognise not just the snaps of our childhood but the feeling of being back there, at home without expectation or complication.

Two haunting images from Joyce Campbell are perhaps the one weakness in this otherwise perfectly formed micro show. The treatment of the pieces is a little slap dash and awkward as they roll back from the wall, and tucking them to one side means we see them as we leave, as an apologetic after-thought. This though does allow for a fitting end to the show, their black tones and high contrast giving a poignant moment of film noir that reflects the darker side of nostalgic memory, something Brimer and Karaitiana both toy with. Where See What I Can See is a lot to take in, Into The Light is accessible in its simplicity, but satisfying in its depth.

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