Monday, July 6, 2009

Out and About With the Ronnies

Christchurch. July 2009. Ajr
I took time out from writing the Frommers manuscript yesterday afternoon and went roaming around the city (Christchurch) with my camera. It’s been almost six weeks since I’ve taken a photo – almost six weeks since I unchained myself from the computer in fact and actually ventured out in any real way at all! I felt like a freed bird and although the weather was grey, gloomy and totally freezing, like the wayward prunus tree I found in full blossom on Oxford Terrace, I was brimming over with unseasonal excitement. I started at Christchurch Art Gallery – they have after all, been teasing those of us on Twitter with shamefully vague images of the new Ronnie van Hout show, “Who Goes There?” I was determined to see for myself. So you may ask, who does go there? Well, in short, LOTS of Ronnies. In addition – aliens in pyjamas, a divine little miniature Bananaman, cast resin fruit, a rather disturbing ‘Failed Robot’ and strange, shadowy figures standing in doorways. Ronnie van Hout was born in Christchurch, now lives in Melbourne and was awarded an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate Award in 2005, for his contribution to New Zealand art. The show includes sculptural works created over the last ten years, many of which give you a little chill down the spine as they tug as some half-remembered childhood nightmare. There’s an urge to move quickly on (plenty of viewers did), coupled with that bizarre horror fixation we have that makes us want to peep through our fingers one more time. Yet oddly, the works are also witty and funny, sleek and so beautifully made you can’t help but be drawn in. The one that is still eating away at my brain – well…two works are actually…the fantastic tiny Bananaman, who I wanted to rescue from his glass case and bring home – he was holding a sign that said ‘Help Me’ after all; and the other, the bizarre-yet-wonderful “End Dolls,” a collection of nine identically-dressed little Ronnies (very realistic self-portraits) in little wooden boxes. Are they coffins? Are they the little boxes retail dolls are displayed in? Are they price tags on his multiple arms? Or Mortuary tags? Ronnie himself (the miniature Ronnie that is), has a disturbingly lifelike quality to him that made me want to laugh and run at the same time. I suspect I might have nightmares tonight but at least if I do, I suspect I’ll wake up laughing.... or maybe not? To top off the exhibition, I kept ‘bumping into Ronnie’ all over town – his ‘Failed Robot’ makes the best art poster I’ve seen in ages.

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