Precarious Balance, the new exhibition curated by Paula Orrell to mark the re-opening of CoCA gallery in Christchurch, is a good reason to visit Christchurch — it’s one of the freshest, tightest, most reverberant exhibitions I’ve seen in some time.
Here we have art that seems to capture the contemporary zeitgeist — that state of contemporary anxiety in which the world seems inescapably poised. But it’s also light, playful, delightful and hopeful.
Of course, it speaks first and foremost to Christchurch physically and psychically, but its references are far broader. As in much contemporary art, found objects/readymades abound — and, declaring the interest that got me to the opening, I have to mention first up Peter Trevelyan’s major new work made of Whitcoulls plastic rulers. Pretty with pink and yellow rulers interspersed amongst their transparent peers, this, at first glance perfect, sphere sits subject to invisible earth-wrenching forces buckling, twisting and contorting its base.
Similarly British artist Matt Calderwood employs spades, ladders and balls outrageously balanced on assemblages of wine glasses that look too impossibly fragile to carry their weight.
Joanna Langford creates seemingly unstable towers from cement fragments, reminiscent of the childhood game to see how you can go before the structure collapses. I’ve been a fan for some time of the work of both Langford and Zina Swanson. Both seem to have an interest in post-apocalyptic narratives with something of the magical.
My body went tense watching the high wire walker in multiscreen video of Scottish artist Catherine Yass. This is nerve-wracking but compelling viewing.
What is wonderful in this exhibition is that there is not one dud. While there’s no time/space to mention every work, all contribute to the whole — the inclusion of Tongan-born Sione Faletau’s performance video usefully broadens readings bringing in references to the Pacific — deepening our sense of the possibilities contained in the exhibition premise.
AND of course, another reason to visit the southern city is the Christchurch Art Gallery just around the corner — all spaces open and lots of great art to view.