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I am the sh*t

When artist Glen Hayward took his wood sculptures into the Paul Nache Gallery he threw a few on the floor and said “Voila!”

But this was no arty-farty tizzy. The randomness of Hayward’s curation is commensurate with the randomness of creases and scuffs in the flattened cardboard boxes he meticulously replicates in wood. The originals once held produce such as apples, lampshades, bananas, and Marvel Apple Splash dishwash.

Hayward calls them skid boxes — and while the boxes are not actually fitted with skids, the skidmarks of the cartons’ life are reproduced, along with the typography, on the flattened boxes’ wooden facsimiles. Flattened cartons are also used by kids to skid down hills and by the down and out, people on the skids so to speak, for mattresses or insulation.

Along with the element of chance there are elements of trash art and the counter-aesthetic in Hayward’s carved works. The entropic nature of the grubby originals are anti-tactile. But given the edges of the corrugated fill in the boxes’ walls are also convincingly authentic, the temptation to touch Hayward’s works to ascertain the material is wood is strong.

Since the work looks so much like its discarded original, would you want one on your wall?

As conceptual art, the art in the work is not just in Hayward’s carving and painting skills but in the ideas, the story behind it.

Shades of AppleIn response to a picture on Facebook of two wooden facsimiles of flattened apple boxes, one person saw shades of American pop artist Andy Warhol’s work. Hayward’s concept is reminiscent of the idea of Warhol’s 1962 screenprinted images of Campbell soup cans. Possibly Hayward also disingenuously references pop and conceptual artist Billy Apple’s works. Like Warhol, Apple wittily reflected the consumerism involved in contemporary art in his framed invoices, IOUs and For Sale signs. That consumerism can be driven by consensus, where the value of the work rests on the celebrity of the artist (Billy Apple is a trademark brand), as much as merit.

Hayward’s pieces are complemented in the same gallery by Oliver King’s assemblages or collages. Conceptually, he and Hayward have much in common.

A video called That’s the thing about bubble gum; You’ve got to work for it, features the artist’s shaved head on the carpet as he chews and blows bubbles. While repetitive and pointless (possibly the point of it) the video is strangely hypnotic.

In 1917 early modernist Marcel Duchamp submitted an upturned porcelain urinal he called Fountain to the Society of Independent Artists’ inaugural exhibition. The work was one of Duchamp’s readymades and questioned the nature of art. The gallery context gave the urinal meaning as art but at the same time the artist could have literally been taking the piss. Because the urinal is inverted, it follows time goes backward hence the “fountain”.

Hayward and King also draw on readymades, randomness and the context of the gallery to make sense of their work.

Where Hayward carried the element of chance through to his curatorial style, though, King brings in mutability and a punk sense of “whatever”.

Bodily fluids and bad attitudesHayward and King both draw on readymades in their work in this exhibition but King could also be taking the piss with his po-faced statement: “My research into intersectional theory explores being white, straight, male and privileged alongside notions of masculine identity, gender, and sexuality within the current political climate. What can be learnt about masculine identity and the way it manifests itself through the autobiographical? As a privileged, white, straight, male how do I address this?”

New Zealand artist Colin McCahon’s 1954 work I Am, in which the letters are painted as solid panels whose edges make up the words, has become a referential catch-phrase over time, a go-to trope for contemporary New Zealand art. King punks it up with the throwaway line on an illuminated shop sign that reads “I am the shit”.

Digital photographic prints of items of clothing such as ties and crew-neck jerseys King took from his father’s wardrobe are cut into random shapes, held in place by small magnets and literally linked with chains. The magnets allow random reassembling of the shapes while textures of the original fabric can be seen in the images printed on Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) but not touched. ACM is hard, glossy and anti-cuddly.

For his stand-alone piece A hole to shit, King cut out a large hole in the colour digital print of a red woollen crew-neck. Crew neck jersey holes with orange centres are multiplied and fixed to the surrounding print by small magnets.

An untitled work of two halves (right) is based on a childhood story.

“On finding the vomit on the carpet my father smacked me until I cried, sent me to my room for staining the carpet and banned me from attending his company’s social soccer match that Sunday afternoon.”

With their punk attitude, readymades and crappy materials, both artists’ work in this show have multi-levelled stories behind them — and above all, humour.

ENNUI: The pointlessness of endlessly chewing bubblegum, relieved only by blowing bubbles, could point to the existential pointlessness of habit, of repetitive behaviour, in conceptual artist Oliver King’s video. That’s the thing about bubble gum; you’ve got to work for it. Or the artist could be having a laugh. Or both.Picture by Thomas Teutenberg
OUT OF THE WARDROBE: Artist Oliver King works on exhibition now at Paul Nache Gallery also draw on randomness and readymades. Picture by Thomas Teutenberg