Artists against slavery
A review of a recent group exhibition: artists include - John Allen, Soren Berger, Beverly Claridge, Nicky Hart, Galina Kim, Gisela Kraak, Chris McCormack, Melipa Peato, Gordon Sharp, Sue Spigel, Joe Stark and Janie Porter.
Gallery O, Christchurch
14 - 20 July 2009
From the sweet nutty aroma of polished cedar lampshades, to layered and richly embellished textiles, ‘Escalade’ was a show filled to the brim with artists all standing for a cause. Twelve artists gathered under the banner of ‘Artists against Slavery’, to raise awareness and funds for anti-slavery organisations. The title of the show, ‘Escalade’, has interesting characteristics. This quite redundant word had stuck with Janie Porter from her early school days. For her it carried intrigue, memories of her learning experience, James Joyce, and a meaning that might seem fitting for an endeavour to help in the battle against slavery. The title of the show, as the meaning of the word ‘escalade’ suggests, easily translates to the scaling of a fortified stronghold of slavery.
While the show itself did not have any unifying theme or any obvious relation to the title, enthusiasm and participation was evident. Each artist brought a keen contribution to the show, and to the cause. A giant wind-vane in the shape of a deep sea fish type piranha/barracuda dominated the floor - ‘Mungus’- by Joe Stark. Beverly Claridge’s deep-space nebula and images of distant galaxies, alongside Gisela’s delicate abstracts, greeted viewers as they entered the room. Chris McCormack’s sharp geometric ensembles of squares, crosses and circles sat alongside rich black wooden reliefs of large strong hands. These hands of Melipa Peato’s could relate and carry the weight of this work against slavery. John Allen’s work could also relate to the cause — clay portraits hung side by side along one wall, the faces of slaves perhaps.
Porter, as well as organising the show and driving the vision, had included works of her own. A beautiful albatross brightened one corner of the room and endangered birds were nestled in the other corner, on a plinth below an ancient kauri vessel by Soren Berger. This show, being very diverse in media, style, artistic background and experience, had trouble holding together as a group show. But in the end this was of little concern, as the aim of this jam-packed show backed a cause very much in need of support.
Reviewed and written by Joanna Osborne
Organised and curated by Janie Porter
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