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Paul Hartigan: Helium
August 2, 2014 @ 2:00 pm - August 27, 2014 @ 3:00 pm
Opening in Main Gallery
Saturday 2 August 2 – 3.30pm
Helium brings together two ostensibly disparate parts of Paul Hartigan’s artistic output.
The Power Flower series stems from consecutive in-camera Polaroid exposures, each analogue snap taken of a different botanical subject at the Auckland Domain. Hartigan manipulates time, floral form and colour, as if he is doing violence to a perfect bouquet and arranging a display that is less, yet more than its constituted parts. The Power Flowers are a mashed-up map to a garden city – not a clear snapshot to guide you from A to B, but overlays that result from the milky haze of memory, pictured through the scent, light and texture that muddies in remembrance.
They play with the traditional beauty of floral depictions: the perfectly painted or photographed vase of flowers; the bouquet of cut flowers – each Polaroid exposure plucking the botanical image from its surrounds; the idea of pressed flowers, where the bloom dies but retains its form. They gain power from their layered intensity; the palms seem to explode; they become hyper-floral.
These bursts of colour and emanating light are mirrored in the neon works that make up the other half of Helium. With centres like plucked specimens they pulse as if alive. They may appear synthetic and man-made, but the neon inside these tubes is as natural as the flowers with which they share the room, an organic gas that provides the atmosphere with the colour that turns a sunset red. Harnessed and electrified, neon pollinates the spaces it illuminates.
Side by side these photographic and neon works echo each other’s form, colour and intent. They both pump out light, but in differently ethereal ways. The mist of photographic memory and the fog of neon light are both given breath, and in the one room, they breathe new life into each other.
Text by Don Abbott.