Fiona Connor: Brick, Cane and Paint
Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland, New Zealand
Through December 17th, 2016
For Brick, Cane and Paint, Connor presents work from three new notice board projects (quoted from three sites: a brick plant and a cane factory in Los Angeles, and a weavers guild in Auckland) alongside a new series titled Insert (Chopping Board).
Where previously Connor's work has focused on bulletin boards from public spaces (such as city parks, libraries, community centres etc.), the sculptures in Brick, Cane and Paint represent activity at specific sites of production, with content generated by a fixed group of individuals. Notice Board (Pacific Clay), the set of six boards in the small and large galleries at Hopkinson Mossman, are quoted from Pacific Clay; a brick plant frequented by the artist. The Pacific Clay boards are punctuated by a single piece from the Handweavers and Spinners Guild in Mt Eden (a community organization close to the artist's childhood home), and the boards that hang in the gallery's office spaces are from Cane and Basket Supply, a workshop near the artist's Los Angeles studio.
Each board is photographed in-situ then meticulously re-constructed. The changeable displays are reproduced by Connor for perpetuity; paper materials (such as advertisements, flyers, wanted or lost-and-found notices) are rendered in aluminum, where fittings (such as thumb-tacks, frames, latches) are produced using the same materials as if commercially manufactured, then arranged according to the originals. Connor's notice boards are cumulative compositions complete with trompe l'oeil environmental effects; deterioration, accumulations, incidental marks, and signs of use. Connor builds up a patina of age through a variety of painterly and sculptural techniques. Her methodical process includes physical re-enactment –rough scribbles are gouged, pins pierce, sellotape accumulates or leaves residue where removed, patches are faded, water marks dribbled – to trace or map human activity upon these surfaces.
The community serviced by each bulletin board is determined by place and proximity, as opposed to their digital counterparts (familiarized by skeuomorphic design) where content is generated through endlessly linked search terms with extensive social, cultural and geographical reach. In the face of advanced, more immediate, and immaterial means of communication, Connor's notice boards both celebrate the "social networks of sites experienced IRL only", and function as relics documenting their own obsolescence. (2)
Insert (Chopping Board) #7 is a chopping board - replete with scars and residues built up or worn down from use - installed directly into the wall of the gallery. For the duration of the exhibition four other chopping boards will be installed across various sites in Auckland including the gallery's neighbour, Johnston Press, and in the homes of the artist's collaborators. The chopping boards are all ready-made, as opposed to re-constructed by the artist, and native to the site of their installation.
Insert (Chopping Board) extends Connor's ongoing exploration into the social lives of objects. The surface of each board makes explicit the durational impact of multiple forces; they bear scars from a cacophony of daily pressures, most significantly knife cuts from food production and consumption. Connor's is a revelatory gesture; by embedding the boards in the wall an otherwise back-of-house functional implement becomes an object for contemplation (and draws unavoidable art historical comparisons), allowing the recognise the intimacy (and in this case, violence) in the incidental impact of the body on things.
In introducing a ready-made into the gallery beside the simulacral notice boards Connor disrupts a complex, although by now familiar, dynamic between faux and real in her work, and adjusts our focus to questions of labour, and the typically invisible social systems at play in art production. Discussing the first Insert (Chopping Board) from Laurel Doody (the artist's project space in her Los Angeles apartment) Leslie Dick writes:
"The insertion of the chopping board into the wall acknowledges its use for domestic and gallery-related food preparation, and removes it from either, in order to articulate the different ways that the labour (kitchen work) of the artist was a key component in the multi-layered project (living, making, and showing art work) that was Laurel Doody … The shape of this chopping board is idiosyncratic and worn; it is a used object, and as such points to a valuation of the past, the anachronistic object. What comes through is a sense that the board is a small memorial (wall plaque?) to the unrecorded conversations, laughter, and forgotten encounters of these social situations, large and small." (3)