A review of Niki Hastings-McFall's recent exhibition
Milford Galleries, Dunedin
19 September – 14 October 2009
As a child I had a tiny doll that that shone a pale green in the dark. I thought of it as an angel. My father told me it was carcinogenic and I buried it in our garden, where I imagined it glowing underground, bringing both light and death. Niki Hastings McFall’s 'Have a little faith' reminds me of the loss of innocence I experienced then, and also how deeply complicated images of transcendence can be.
Her works inhabit the domestic space of the formal, decorated living room, also celebrated at Milford in works from the ‘Polynisation’ series where furniture is surfaced with plastic flowers. In 'Have a little faith' transparent hazard tape becomes the notched zigzag forms of Pacific weaving, reading as screens, or shields that will stand between the self and some danger. Impermeable: no water will get through, nor will they decay in the usual way of organic things. Like shockwaves radiating outward, 'Flock' is a nimbus of aeroplanes in a form based on the carved roundels of protective breast-plates.
Tableaux of the kind one finds on graves are both loving and frightening. Paradise, in 'Adam and Maiden' is a greenly glowing Garden of Eden populated with skeletons. In 'Swansong' a winged skeleton, riding a swan, blows a conch shell. The skeleton’s joints glisten and its own down-like wings remind one of pillows and therefore sleep, with all its attendant metaphors. The plastic is immaculate and delicate. Hastings McFall has consistently explored the provisional character of cultural forms as they adapt to new media, media that have different relationships to issues of sustainability and consumption, longevity and transience. Here the theme of death is explicitly invoked but this is a kind, though insidious death, lit by the brilliant colours of contemporary materials, given preciousness by their use.
Reviewed and written by Bridie Lonie
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