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A new generation of artists looking at the world in new ways.

Glaister Ennor Graduate Art Award
Barfoot and Thompson Art Award

Sanderson Gallery, Newmarket
Until July 24

This week I was one of the judges for the annual Glaister Ennor Graduate Art Award and the Barfoot and Thompson Award, which both support and encourage young artists in their final year at art school.

These awards, which give an insight into what is happening in our art schools, encapsulate the way that the making of art and interactions with society is perceived by new generations looking at the world in new ways.

The works explore a range of subjects – the personal, the political and the social.

There are the recording of personal and family life with the work of Christopher Young, Proditio ($2500); Kelsi Tulafono and Louisa Afoa, A Pool is not the Ocean ($2000); as well as the interaction with the environment with the videos of Robyn Jordaan, The Present ($2000); and Antonia Nisbe, Unofficial systems to keep the world running ($750).

Several of the works look at the patterns and structures of the environment with the painting of Tira Walsh, Hunter ($2200); Felix Pryor’s monumental sculpture Speculative Architectonix// an allegory for power and beauty before collapse”($2200) and Claudia Morris’s diaphanous hanging work ($750).

One recurrent aspect was the references and homages to the art and artists of the past.

There is Peter Peryer in the photograph of Yvonne Shaw, Cleave ($700); John Reynolds whose alter ego was performance in the gallery Disappearing Suit MK ($5000) by Hikalu Clarke and Veronika Djoulai’s video work Exquisite Cadaver”($400), referencing the surrealist artists and their elaborate parlour games.

The winner of the Barfoot & Thompson Award was Shane Tu’ihalangingie for his untitled photograph ($800) of a house at night with a family event occurring inside. Some of the family, their arms out the windows appear to be paddling with oars of fine mats under the directions of a bearded patriarch.

I noted that there is a tradition in photography that, when documenting the every day of the individual, the family or the crowd that the photographer is a mere observer, accepting what they see and recording the activities without intervention.

But in this photograph the photographer was manipulating the scene and the event. He has turned a family event into a piece of theatre, creating an elaborate story, a bit of mythology.

The family members take on the roles of early Polynesian navigators paddling their giant state house waka. (Possibly an allusion to Michael Parekowhai and Barfoot and Thompson who created Lighthouse on the Auckland waterfront). The photograph, taken at night also alludes to the importance of the stars in the night sky which provided directions for the early navigators.

The head of the family, the patriarch takes on the role of a God of the heavens or navigation as well as director of this staged vignette

It’s a clever mix of the thoughtful and the comic, the ordinary and the allegorical

The Glaister Ennor Award went to Jordan Davey-Emms for her sculptural work Open Set / Sponge Mass”($620).

This assemblage of disparate pieces of building material looks like something between a cross between a three-dimensional version of an abstract painting and a model of a street layout.

It appears we are confronted with of a collection of random pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, which we need to assemble or trying to deal with that intractable problem which ricochets around our heads.

I like the way in which it is a bit like a diagram, a flow chart, an organisational structure – a concrete image of the intricate way in which we structure ideas and concepts.

We are generally fascinated by the logic of the forms and spaces we inhabit, the rooms, the houses, the building, the cities and we a continually trying to understand these notions or in a few cases attempting to change the way these structures are created.

We are also fascinated by those systems which we generally do not understand – braille, the semaphore of computer coding. We know they constitute a language or a means or creating order but they are merely a series of shapes.

The work is firmly in the tradition of the readymade, the found object as art, the conceptual notion invented by Marcel Duchamp exactly 100 years ago with his Fountain, a mass-produced urinal.

In this approach, the artist is a sly magician transforming mundane pieces of wood brick and sponge into something puzzling and enigmatic, something that will forever hold its secret.

The Glaister Ennor Graduate Art Award and Barfoot and Thompson Award were judged jointly by John Daly-Peoples and Te Uru Art Gallery curator Ioana Gordon Smith.