Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Saving your plates of meat

For all the allure of the online world, there is still something perfect about a good old analogue book and, even more so, a good old analogue art book. 

Take the recently published Wayne Barrar: an expanding subterra with its 66 colour plates and 16 large black and white images. A number of these images have been in exhibitions before and often, from memory, at a larger scale than they are in the book, and yet the book carries a punch the prints we have seen so far did not achieve. We put a lot of this down to gallery fatigue; that ache in the back of the legs and the feet that hits about 12 minutes after you stop to look at anything (allow another couple of minutes for galleries without concrete floors). The effect is often the denial of detail in favour of the quick hit. 

But sitting at a table with a book is a different proposition altogether. In Barrar’s case that’s when you notice a beautiful tin cup perched up on a scruffy white cabinet, an aerial map almost merged with the rock face it hangs on and what appears to be a please smoke icon in a nine (count ‘em) urinal bathroom. That’s also when you can study all 82 images in a single sitting if you want, giving each one enough time to reveal itself. A large body of work like this takes time to look at and standing up is not the easiest way to do that thing.

Image: Wayne Barrar: an expanding subterra published by the Dunedin Public Art Gallery