21st August – 25th September 2010
Anna Schwartz Gallery Carriageworks
The paintings of Shane Cotton offer a complex and ambiguous gathering of clues… towards meaning, rather than the illustration of a single idea. indeed, the images and painted text appear to ricochet across their sky scapes, sometimes nearly crashing or often falling – but arbitrarily (and oddly) ‘stilled’ in space. The paralysed birds mimic movement but are utterly motionless. images exist within a kind of realised trauma, frozen (as in the paintings of Magritte) just for a moment on their inevitable voyage. The artist allows us a glimpse – before the vortex again swallows the whole.
The shifts in perspective and the contradictions apparent in the solidity, stillness and ‘weight’ of the images on the one hand and their implied movement and fragility on the other provoke an emotional as well as a conceptual investigation.
Firstly, we are moved by the perfection and brilliance of the surfaces of these paintings and the bravura of the artist’s great technical skill. haunting is the beauty of the images – the exquisitely executed birds, the wonderfully coloured targets and the delicate, jewel-like savagery of the shrunken heads.
However, the artist is engaged with more than the concrete superstructure of the works. he is drawn to explore the complex and divisive history of his people – indeed all people – with narratives to do with migration, colonisation, resistance, religion, rage, identity and war. These ideas are manifest in his complex evocations and allude to his own upbringing within the conflicted environment of contemporary New Zealand – where language, identity and ownership remain ongoing anxieties for the inhabitants of this contested country.
Shane Cotton’s works evoke notions of colonial imposition, religious imperative and matters of movement, conflict and change – they reflect a multitude of truths.