Cerith Wyn Evans transmit/receive – a gallery visit to Michael Lett/Hopkinson Mossman 11 April – 10 May 2014
Cerith Wyn Evans is an established UK artist who has not exhibited previously in NZ. In Auckland it is rare to have two exhibitions by the same artist in different galleries (simultaneously, not consecutively). I went to view the exhibitions for a ‘cold’ reading not knowing anything about the artist or his work. I wanted to encounter the work on it’s own terms. I went with an open mind but also with the intention to attempt to assess and critique the work as a student of contemporary art with a particular interest in installation art.
The two gallery spaces are very different; Michael Lett is like a concrete bunker containing large square pillars and is dark and silent, whereas Hopkinson Mossman is above the street, has lots of adjacent windows and is filled with light.
There are two key works; ieae (2014) at Hopkinson Mossman and cite/sight/site (2014) at Michael Lett.
ieae is a set of three mirror-covered plinths with loud speakers concealed within them. Apparently the sound track contains a complex range of musical and field sound types, which runs for 2 hours but I didn’t hear anything while I was there. There were two neon works also at Hopkinson Mossman. One Mobius Strip, consists of two overlapping infinity symbols with their fronts blacked out with paint so that they only reflect off of the wall. The other is a neon text that can be read two ways; as both No Where or Now Here.
There was another neon work at Michael Lett gallery, which read In praise of Shadows, perhaps emphasizing darkness as a necessary antithesis for light in order for it to take on form. A pulsing ball of light like a radiating sun is another component of the work and the third part comprised of three potted Karaka trees on revolving stands, as if miniature turning earths receiving the electrical illumination from the ‘sun’.
For me there were not enough visual cues for the work to engage my interest. Without knowing about it or the work of the artist before hand, I found it very difficult to interpret the work and to establish the trans-gallery connections. This was an exhibition that required time for deeper thought and reflection in order to fully appreciate the extent of the works, and how they related to each other, rather than a site for affect [emotional/ psychological or physical / relational experience]. On reflection I think that perhaps with several visits to the exhibition and engaging in some related reading I may begin to put the pieces of the ‘puzzle’ of the work together and find deeper resonance with it. For me the understanding and appreciation for the work has come from reading about it afterwards.
Insights I have gleaned from reading are that the mirrored plinths are carefully positioned so that infinity paths can be observed from different angles, and the paths have lines of stacked up receding and reflected planes. The top and side surfaces maneuver the different heights so that they reflect parts of each nearby onlooker. The sounds track sends out spasmodic tinkly music and the mirrors draw in the reflected fragmented images.
The suspended ‘sun’ at Lett is a cluster of sixty large clear bulbs, which pulsate with letter shapes forming a kind of cryptic language. The language is a recorded played sound that is a kind of codified musical tune which perhaps could relate to the emission from the mirrored plinths down the road?
Says John Hurrell (eyecontactsite.com) ”There are two sets of three artworks, opposing and bonding simultaneously, reflecting each other but different – like the exhibition invitation with the mirror showing the soldier’s back and exposed wound: a complementary process.
Cerith Wyn Evans, 2014. ieae Auckland: Hopkinson Mossman Gallery