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Flax bunkers to kaleidoscopic colour: snapshot of Wellington art now

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A hand-woven bunker, an aria in an empty quarry, stone rings, larger-than-life projections of your own feet, and a room filled with kaleidoscopic colour: five artists present five extraordinary new projects in SOLO 2021, opening 16 October at The Dowse.

The series is a snapshot of contemporary art practice in Te Whanganui-a-Tara right here, right now.

SOLO 2021 features new work by Chris Ulutupu, Dianne Prince, Gabby O’Connor, Martin Awa Clarke Langdon and Peter Deckers.

Co-curated by The Dowse curators Sian van Dyk and Chelsea Nichols, SOLO 2021 aims to showcase and support Wellington artists by commissioning and presenting new work.

"SOLO is an exercise in letting go and trusting the artists to make something spectacular," says van Dyk.

"We ask artists what they would like to do - perhaps something they’ve been dreaming of making or been mulling over-and help them realise their project in an entire gallery space of their own."

"This is the fifth iteration of SOLO. Each time, we choose people in different phases of their careers, working across a variety of media, to show a wide representation of art being made in Wellington."

Deputy Mayor Tui Lewis says SOLO is an exciting exhibition with something for everyone in the artists’ hugely different creations.

"The Dowse has long been a space for artists to test ideas and offer something out of the ordinary for visitors, and this biennial exhibition is a great example of this."

SOLO 2021 features five solo projects by five Wellington artists:

Gabby O’Connor sculpts with light, creating an immersive kaleidoscopic installation that coats your senses in colour. The work was originally made for the Sharjah Islamic Arts Festivalin 2017, but has been updated and expanded here for its first ever showing in Aotearoa. Dance through it and drink it in-the work relies on the audience’s visual perception of light waves to bring it to life.

Chris Ulutupu (Samoan, Niuean, German): A woman takes a break from her walk in an empty quarry. While gathering branches to scatter on a white sheet laid on the ground, she begins to sing a Samoan aria. As she continues her song something magical begins to happen, connecting her to the island her and her voice are descended from.

Dianne Prince (Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Whātua): A bunker protects several tiny whare and a mighty tower. Protective tools like a gas mask and telescope help bolster the bunker’s defences, as a waka glides through the air above. Woven entirely by hand from muka, Dianne Prince’s ambitious installation is about knowing one’s mātauranga or place in the world. Her woven objects challenge dominant colonial narratives, and offer a sense of protection, resilience and mārohi (strength) against these destructive forces.

Martin Awa Clarke Langdon (Waikato-Tainui, Ngāti Whāwhākia, Ngāti Hikairo, Kāi Tahu) invites visitors to step into wooden structures that contain earth with special connections to his whakapapa. Through a playful intervention, participants will see their feet beamed before them in larger than life projections, encouraging them to consider the different but interconnected ways we find meaning in landscapes that reflect our identities.

Peter Deckers: Despite having formed over thousands of years, a humble pebble on the beach has little monetary worth. Working with their inherent qualities, Peter Deckers morphs coastal stones and minerals with costume jewellery and discarded commercial items like computer hardware. Contrasting them side by side on rotating panels, the artist blurs the line between nature and artifice to question how value is perceived.

SOLO 2021 is on at The Dowse from 16 October 2021 to 20 February 2022.

It is part of The Dowse’s 50th Anniversary programme, paying tribute to The Dowse’s first ever exhibition in 1971, Artists of the Wellington Region, and highlighting the museum’s commitment to supporting and presenting new artist work.

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