Previously published essays by Rob Garrett on artists and their work, exhibitions and biennales.

Reasons for optimism

10th Istanbul Biennial, 2007

    • David Ter-Oganyan, This is not a bomb (2006-2007), “Entre-polis” at Antrepo No.3, 10th Istanbul Biennial, photo by Rob Garrett
Where can you leave luggage unaccompanied these days? Not at airports or rail stations, but in art galleries. After transiting through a number of airports to get to Istanbul, I had numerous recorded security warnings about left luggage echoing in my mind. So I was amused… Read more

Ralph Hotere

Towards Aramoana, 1982

    • Ralph Hotere, Towards Aramoana 1982
Walk on wet sand; in the extreme shallows where water and sand seem one substance until disturbed and forced apart, momentarily, by the weight of your foot. See how quickly the liquefied sand oozes back creating a delicate membrane that erases your footprints. Notice how the… Read more

Milan Mrkusich's vertigo

Painting Dark III, 1971

    • Milan Mrkusich, Dark Painting III (detail), photo by Rob Garrett
In David Lynch’s 1996 movie Lost Highway there is a moment of all-enveloping black that defies cinematic logic. As the camera follows Fred, played by Bill Pullman, through the interior of his luxurious but fashionably barren house, actor, walls and all bearings disappear. The darkness was… Read more

NZ's Pocket Pavilion

2007 Venice Biennale project

    • Speculation, NZ's 2007 pocket pavilion at Venice Biennale
While the big boats battled it out in Valencia, artists, curators and supporters launched New Zealand’s cheeky unofficial, portable and pocketable pavilion in Venice for the 52nd Biennale of Contemporary Art: Speculation. Floating into Venice almost as improbably as icebergs drifted past the Otago coast… Read more

Walking with letters

Parekowhai, Reynolds & Pule

    • John Reynolds Cloud 2006, installation in the Art Gallery of New South Wales (detail), courtesy of the artist; photo by Patrick Reynolds
Since the middle of last century one of the strongest underpinnings of the word in art in New Zealand has been literary. Literature and citation are evident in the works of Michael Parekowhai, John Reynolds and John Pule. The Indefinite Article was one of several Michael… Read more

Quiet flows the Volga

2nd Moscow Biennale, 2007

    • 2nd Moscow Biennale, 2007, photo by Rob Garrett
We had only been talking for ten minutes on the final approach to Domodedovo airport when Sergey turned in his seat to look me in the eyes intently and said “make sure they take you to the forest; and if they don’t take you to the… Read more

Richard Killeen

Street Walker, 1969

    • Richard Killeen, Street Walker, 1969
I wonder where he’s off to, this man in his red suit. Striding purposefully out of the frame towards something, someone, or somewhere; or is he simply hot-footing it away from something dark before anyone notices? Look at the way he isn’t quite grounded on the… Read more


Gateway to the Pacific

    • Tony Oursler, Head Knocking, 2000; courtesy of the artist and Jensen Gallery
In Auck­land, it is impos­si­ble to view the Pacific in the con­text of a kind of time­less past. The site of a rich Maori-European, post-colonial cul­ture and home to var­i­ous Pacific, South­east Asian and Euro­pean dias­po­ras, the city has become one of the most vibrant cul­tural… Read more

Shane Cotton

Rangiheketini, 1998

    • Shane Cotton, Rangiheketini (triptych)
Heke is name for a rafter in a meeting house and for the tendril of a gourd plant connecting the main stem to its new anchor points. In this imposing triptych the heke is both the name on the middle panel and a word for the… Read more

An intentional mess

Jim Allen, O-AR1, St Paul Street Gallery 2007

    • Jim Allen, O-AR1, Barry Lett / RKS Gallery, 1974. Reproduced with permission of the artist and St Paul St Gallery
Jim Allen’s mess of printed texts, calico drop-sheets, children’s work, manuka (ti-tree) branches and metal grids is both a re-staging and a re-construction of the artist’s 1975 installation O-AR1. It is useful to ask, what are the effects of re-making and re-showing the work now,… Read more
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