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Chris Heaphy: Supreme (2018)


Fri 13 Apr 2018, 9:00am–5:00pm
Sat 14 Apr 2018, 11:00am–3:00pm
Mon 16 Apr 2018, 9:00am–5:00pm
Tue 17 Apr 2018, 9:00am–5:00pm
Wed 18 Apr 2018, 9:00am–5:00pm

Where: Milford Galleries Dunedin, 18 Dowling St, Dunedin, Otago

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Admission: Free

Listed by: Milford Galleries

The first experience of Chris Heaphy’s The Floating World, the central work in Supreme , is like staring into a kaleidoscope. Rotated and reflected motifs create complex, circular patterns; negative and positive spaces appear and disappear as the eyes focus and re-focus. Upon longer examination however, the work reveals discrepancies in the strict geometry of reflection and repetition.

Most obvious of these are the painterly medallions featuring blossoming branches and a Taranaki/Fuji-like mountain. Other individual details begin to materialise too: a suite of silhouetted profiles are not mirror images at all; they face the same way, following after one another.

At first, stylised green tiki seem alike but it soon becomes clear that the composition of each is individualised - one sports a heron, another is topped off with a flagpole, another with a bowler-hatted profile.

These exceptions perform the same role as the deliberate mistakes in a Persian carpet or the imperfect elements that underpin the Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic: they remind us that it is the differences that enrich the overall experience of the work. Heaphy’s mandala-like painting initiates a rhythmic, meditative way of seeing but then disrupts this, forcing us to consider how and why this disruption occurs.

This is also evident in the other five works on canvas that are part of Supreme: similar in composition and colour palette, they are meditations on a theme. The longer these works are looked at however, the more dissimilar they seem and the more uncertain our initial reading of each painting becomes.

Heaphy uses the optics of advancing and receding colours so that the varied geometric shapes that float on the picture planes react differently in each composition, creating subtle shifts in depth and space on the canvas. There are repeated elements which connect the paintings but they operate differently on each canvas.

The central element of these paintings comprises flat organic shapes and lines, from which the viewer constructs an abstracted floral arrangement in an attempt to create meaning. As with all the motifs Heaphy employs however, this is only one of the readings possible. Socio-cultural factors and individual biases of the viewer mean that potential meanings slide past one another.

The exhibition’s title is revealed to be deliberately misleading: there is no final, supreme reading of these paintings. The stories Chris Heaphy tells with his painted glyphs have no Rosetta Stone to provide a definitive translation: Supreme is a world of floating narratives and shifting histories.

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