Around the Mountain brings together a selection of video works from the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Collection by local and international artists. Shaun Gladwell, Alex Monteith and Terry Urbahn have produced work in response to urban and natural Taranaki landscapes and the people who inhabit them.
Shaun Gladwell Taranaki Descent 2004. Video. Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Collection
Taranaki descent was commissioned for the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery’s exhibition Gridlock: cities, spaces, structures in 2004 and shot on location in New Plymouth. In an act of picturesque movement, the skaters in Gladwell’s video transform the vast yet mundane (Centre City) car park in New Plymouth into a ballet-like venue. Skateboarding is a form of street culture and mode of transport that reinvents buildings and urban space. Skaters cut across cities independent of regular mapped direction and transform practical (and often disregarded) public architecture into the base for aerial tricks. Gladwell’s video, and the skaters in it, transform the car park into an alternatively-functioning, poetic space, highlighting the stunning views of the Tasman Sea afforded by the car park, and its good skating conditions.
In spite of its superficially casual street style, Gladwell’s work is carefully composed. He uses slow motion, framing and considered viewpoints to open a range of readings that play with and against art historical genres and concepts such as romantic portraiture, landscape and religious allegory. Gladwell’s poetic and critical approach often makes overt references to the history of painting and philosophy through the aperture of his personal experience.
Alex Monteith Parihaka to Cape Egmont Rd to Parihaka with two Tino Rangatiratanga Flags and Two Land Rovers, Waitangi Day 2009. Two channel video installation with two channel audio, 18 min. Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Collection
This gifted work by artist Alex Monteith was performed and recorded in Taranaki on Waitangi Day in 2009 with the Local Time collective at Parihaka and incorporated two Land Rovers and two Tino Rangitiratanga flags. Video was recorded simultaneously from each vehicle as documentation. The two Landrovers drove the roads from Parihaka Pa in convoy, leaving from outside Te Pae Pae Marae, to Cape Egmont (the most western point on the North Island) and back to Parihaka. This carefully measured work registers the possibility of personal gesture within a wider environment of political protest.
This work was presented in the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery exhibition Alex Monteith: Accelerated Geographies in 2010.
Terry Urbahn The Sacred Hart 2004-2007. Mixed media. Govett-Brewster Art Gallery Collection
This project was first conceived of in 2004 and exhibited at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, 8 December 2007 – 2 March 2008. It grew out of a photographic commission that documented the historic (but unused and derelict at the time) White Hart Hotel in New Plymouth. The artist wanted to broaden his documentation from the architecture of the site to record elements of the hotel’s human spirit. Using the hotel’s Public Bar as a starting point, a group of ‘characters’ were assembled for a reunion dinner.
The working title for the project was ‘The Last Supper’ in recognition of the impending closure of the bar. The selection of guests was based on the artists own experiences of the Hotel through art, music and socialising during the 1980s. Traditionally public bars have broken down social barriers and especially in the case of the White Hart it attracted a diverse clientele hence the artist invited a broad spectrum of ‘locals’ including an art businessmen (John), a journalist (Mark), motorcycle enthusiasts (Dave), a politician (Shagger), the current hotel owners (Harvey and Bob) & past (Terry), a bar worker (Kimbo), a pilot (Mike), an artist (Don), a photographer (Johnnie), musician (Boot) and band promoter (Brian).
While the guests’ collective memory of the history and their personal association with hotel was important, the artist was more interested in what would happen when a disparate group of people were assembled on ‘common ground’, spoiled with a five course meal and anything they wanted to drink, stuck in front of a camera for a long period of time and asked to simply ‘enjoy themselves and talk’.