Two installations at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery attune viewers to seasonality, then they lift us out of the winter blues.
Steve Carr's In Bloom, at DPAG until 29 August
Scott Eady's Cinelli 250: Ata mārie Ōtepoti, at DPAG until 7 November
Reviewed by Angela Trolove
Mid-winter, and against the white gallery walls, the colours of Steve Carr’s latest In Bloom installation are a surprise. These colours are the findings of local collaborator, florist Jolene Wilkinson. Lilac-bellied artichokes, russet-red dogwood, and glinting fennel stalks contrast with drowsy suede clusters of garrya. Thistle seeds nap in the fretwork of shadows from downlights above the arrangement on this space by the stairwell. As if given a respite, visitors swirl off from the lazy river into this sanctuary beside the staircase. Carr’s bronze tyres beckon the knuckles, as by eye one can’t be sure they are replicas.
Material hierarchies trouble me in this piece, but Carr means them to. And yet bronze has the black-gloves drama of its forging, and is resonant both as a feat of production and as a development from his extraordinary 2014 Nissan Skyline MK1, blackened walnut carved in the form of a tyre. The durability of the tyres contrasts with the ephemeral nature of the floral arrangement, thus posing an environmental concern. The plants embody the dearth of flowers in midwinter. This is a bold anti-timelapse: leaves fall to the polished wood floor, shrivel, yes. The arrangement desiccates, but who will keep vigil long enough to catch these processes of decay?
In the pause which Matariki opens for reflection, for returning to the seasonal and the neighbourly, it is perhaps fundamental that Scott Eady’s bench, Chippendale Suite, faces a window on wintry Ōtepoti – bare trees, the green-grey harbour (only kilometres away), the overcast sky. The Cinelli bike resting against the bench suggests of dismounting for a moment, of taking one’s ease and a seat, of greeting the city, "Ata mārie Ōtepoti". That it enabled exactly this (Eady made the journey along Dunedin’s harbour 250 times, we read on a nearby panel introducing the work), makes its stillness, in proximity to that harbour, remarkable. Restlessness and latent readiness: the potential energy of any bicycle.
In a season where energy reserves may be low, a bench is a gift. I check with an attendant whether the sculpture may be sat on. “Of course!” he replies. He nods at it, “For contemplation.” This bench, we read, is “built out of a piano with many long-standing connections to Dunedin’s music scene”. It could feel iconoclastic to be sitting on a bench of piano timber. On the other hand, it’s practically a jazz trope. Cool varnish. Rallentando. Perfectly comfortable. Eady’s neon greeting glows like a dose of vitamin D across the high ceiling of the first floor. His sunbeams are followed in cursive by a genuinely nice thing to be asked: How are you doing?
In Bloom (detail) 2020.
Bronze, dried plants
Courtesy of the artist and Michael Lett, Auckland Made with the support of Creative New Zealand
Photograph: Justin Spiers
Cinelli 250: Ata mārie Ōtepoti 2020–21.
Courtesy of the artist
Photograph: Justin Spiers