As delicate as it is compelling, the inaugural exhibition hop hip explores the dynamic field of tension between music and visual art, between rhythm and colour. The term hop literally means jump while hip, freely translated, is a term that catapults you to imaginary places where you are enlightened to act or enjoy. Through a variety of voices and visual approaches aimed at hybridity and the deterritorialisation of cultural and physical space, additional audiovisual connections are forged and played out in a broader social framework.
By bringing together three artists from different backgrounds working in New Zealand with a Belgian sculptor, The Nomadic Art Gallery aims to visually/conceptually dissect the rhythmic cadence inherent in the artworks in the light of musical genres. Crawling your way through the four different spaces, is as visually listening to Baroque, Russian classical Folk, experimental noise, vaporwave and Hip-Hop.
In the main space, Philip Trusttum (1949), one of New Zealand’s most celebrated artists, exhibits four works from the ‘Pictures at the Exhibition’ series (2001-2004) inspired by the same piece for the piano by Russian composer Modest Mussorgorsky. While its genesis is pure Russian Romanticism, the unstretched paintings reference an extraordinary diversity of influences, from Medieval illuminated manuscripts, to Japanese woodblock prints to comic books to motifs from African houses. Brushstrokes fired by music result in a kaleidoscopic 'choreography' of line, pattern and luminous colours.
In the white-cube space and basement, Trusttum is showing nine works from the ongoing selfie and mask series started in 2018. In the past decade, technology has all but destroyed the aura of the portrait: in the age of the selfie, we have all become aware of the laborious, desperate production behind our own and other people's photographs. We see faces so often that even the most extravagant grimace no longer frightens us. Until you come across Trusttum's gestural self-portraits and masked persona’s shifting qualities of light, fragments and ruptures, glances down, and things suddenly looming close. The picture plane is totally flattened to achieve an emotional rather than a descriptive effect. These works highlight Trusttum's masterly sense of colour applied with energetic expressionism, his works jumping out at the viewer, bold and tactile, playful and always everyday, underlining his raw daring individuality.
The delicious paintings of Trusttum enter into dialogue with the wondrous peculiar sculptures in bronze by Danny Tulkens (1953). With dazzling craftsmanship, Tulkens scrutinises and magnifies the peculiarities of man in relation to himself and the world. Bathed in an atmosphere of surrealism, the sculptures, with their strong emotional content and contrast in lighting, echo the dramatic tunes of Baroque. His sculptures do not leave the spectator unmoved, gently forcing to take a stand but at the same time carrying the seeds to constantly question and challenge this choice. All presence in his work, while fully sarcastic and cynical, has its own stoical descent towards nothingness written into its shape, its stance.
The upstairs space is filled with paintings and drawings by two Pacific artists, Marcus Hipa and Ahsin Ahsin. On the right side, against the black wall, Cook Island raised, New Zealand born Ahsin Ahsin’s impressions of the digital realm made it to the real world. Ahsin's persona and much of his work give you a sunny, dreamy vibe that will stay with you for a long time. But now the laser-focused aesthetic transport the old-enough spectator to the Vaporwave and cyberpunk heydays. The three exhibited works, the Lilac series, reveal a nostalgic and at times dreamlike engagement with popular entertainment and technology of previous decades. Visually Ahsin incorporates early internet imagery, late 1990s web graphics, his trademark crocodiles, glitch, 3D rendered objects, unnatural hues, sci-fi and cartoons.
On the other side, the raw drawings of Niue-born Marcus Hipa follow the visual and conceptual beat of Hip Hop. The convoluted and interlocked lines merge into another, creating an image that seems to expand and bubble-up. Their “pure” white frame keeps the boundless energy in check. In the works there is also a contrast at play, all layered up in black and outlined in vivid colors. These lines created in grafitti style, look like sci-fi figure sharing insights of his people’s history, culture and traditions. With the need to assimilate when relocating to a foreign country there is the challenging and ofter abrasive task of taking on the new environments language. The prickly underside of the figures is inspired by the form of the coconut scraper. Coconuts are engraved in Pacific Islanders identity and form an important link with their cultural background. So the lines are read as universal letters telling complex stories of identity, loss and reclamation of culture, representation and power dynamics.
Abstraction meets figuration, old meets new, aggressiveness evokes control and reality is met with imagination. So hop through the colorful garden of pulsating energy.