A walk through Walls to Live Beside, Rooms to Own
The many Covid lockdowns brought some strange, invasive moments when boundaries between public and private were blurred, and, in some cases, completely demolished. As Zoom became a staple of both our student and work lives, we were forced to adapt to a new reality, where all of our responsibilities had to be fulfilled in our intimate spaces (with the exception of essential workers).
Walls to Live Beside, Rooms to Own explores this experience from the perspective of artists. With the materials and environments of the home being key touchpoints, the works look to understand the relationship between interior spaces and the practice of creating art. Different mediums are explored and there’s real variety captured among the pieces, but the sense of intimacy and homeliness remains clear throughout.
In some instances, the exhibition interprets the blurred boundaries in a way that is really playful. Sculptural artists commonly play with a sense of balance and suspension, stacking unlikely, homely items on top of each other. Segments of rooms seem to be gently lifted and placed within the gallery, without too much disturbance. In the larger spaces, where multiple sculptures and pieces are combined, it feels as if you’re in a slightly liminal space—which can be delightfully eerie.
Two artists included within the exhibition have been commissioned to contribute by the gallery. One is Tim Wagg, an ELAM alumni. Wagg’s piece ‘Youth Portrait’ is a video, which captures real-estate agent Jadyn Dixon in his work, and explores the wider contexts and ideologies of the industry. It’s a standout approach within the exhibition, and a watch that seems to inform the way you continue to engage with the surrounding pieces.
The other commissioned pieces come from Fiona Connor, another ELAM graduate. Through pieces ‘Walls #1–#6 and #8 (featuring Rob Gardiner)’ Connor creates seven walls that are inspired by actual interior walls dispersed throughout the wider Auckland and Waikato regions. Engaging with Connor’s work feels much more familiar and intimate, and the sculpture highlights the architecture of the home in a direct manner.
It’s likely, as the show goes on at the gallery, that the pieces will come to have different meanings. The context outside the walls, such as the wider anxieties and issues in housing, and the negotiations of our relationships with home in a potential post-lockdown future will be ongoing tensions that impact the way we view these pieces. The fact that the exhibition reaches into our past reveals how these materials, and our relationship to the place that they come from, are ever-present. Walls to Live Beside, Rooms to Own is an exhibition that offers up some comfort and empathy for our relationship to home—sometimes delighting and sometimes strange, but always interesting.
Walls to Live Beside, Rooms to Own: The Chartwell Show is on display at Toi o Tāmaki Auckland Art Gallery until 26 March 2023.
PHOTO: Fiona Connor Wallworks (Trevor Vickers), installation view MUMA 2014, photo Andrew Curtis.