Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Observation / Action / Reflection

I met New Zealand sculptor, Andrew Drummond, twenty-three years ago - in 1987 - when I was living in Wanganui. He arrived there as the Sarjeant Gallery's Artist-in-Residence at Tylee Cottage. Wanganui was a small community, especially in the arts field and it wasn't long before we crossed paths. Later, when Andrew was beginning work on a major installation in the Sarjeant Gallery Dome, he needed some 'manual labour' to help weave the forms that would make up the installation. It just so happened that I had spent several years previous to that - in my days as a young married mother in Auckland - weaving baskets as a sideline. And so we took to willow weaving in a big way. And, being the stickler for detail that I am, I also photographed the entire process - right through to an opening night fortified by copious champagne cocktails - and compiled the images into a handmade book. (I was working as an artist myself at the time and handmade artist books were, and still are, a particular passion).
I've included a few photographs of some pages from the resulting book (above), which hides away in a cabinet with the dozens of other books I've made at one time or another.
"Viewing Device, Counter Rotating" 2008-10. Christchurch Art Gallery Foyer. Image AJR
All that, by way of a convoluted introduction to the fact that Andrew Drummond opens a major exhibition at Christchurch Art Gallery this week. Observation / Action/ Reflection is Drummond's first comprehensive survey exhibition and when it opens on Thursday night, it is bound to intrigue and mesmerise. As his foyer work above demonstrates - Drummond has come a long way from weaving organic works like his "Coming and Going" of twenty-three years ago - materially at least, for even then his gigantic, ambitious works had a seductive power. But his commitment to art, his ideals, his philosophies have never wavered.
Andrew Drummond Counter-Rotating andEarthing Device 2000. Brass, glass, copper, electrical system. Reproduced courtesy of the artist. A visit to Drummond's Christchurch studio is an eye-opener. Like his sculptures, the environment is huge and technical - more like an engineer's workshop in fact. And yet the resulting kinetic works that come out of it - sleek, shiny, mechanical wonders - have a disconcerting power that draws you in, a kind of robotic humanity that sets you to thinking about all manner of things.........."where quirky, individualistic machines, making use of water, air, electricity and light parody your own individualism, bodily mechanisms and human sensory systems," wrote art historian John Finlay recently.
Andrew Drummond Vented Hanging Device with Shelter 1994. Mixed Media. Reproduced courtesy of the artist. Photograph: Lloyd Park. Drummond never shies away from testing his creative, physical and intellectual limits - nor those of the viewer - no matter what it takes. He has an idea - and he does everything in his power to bring it to reality. And in the lead-up to his survey exhibition at Christchurch Art Gallery, I for one am eagerly anticipating a spectacular show of innovative, captivating works with a 'presence' that will send many away re-thinking what art is and can be.
Andrew Drummond room for Observation (detail) 2003. Mixed media. Reproduced courtesy of the artist. Photograph: Brendan Lee.
Andrew Drummond: Observation / Action /Reflections opens at ChristchurchArt Gallery on May 14 and runs through to September 5, 2010.

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