Monday, June 15, 2009

Bath Street show, TJ McNamara writes

New Zealand Herald, June 13

Harvey Benge, whose work is at the Bath Street Gallery, is a photographer who goes about the world recording what his alert and trained eye sees. Usually his work is published in books but for the festival the gallery is showing a large frieze originally commissioned by Dunedin Art Gallery.

This spectacular work, which occupies one long wall, is made of 240 A3-sized digital prints with few repetitions. In his travels the artist has spotted many things often paradoxically juxtaposed. Bikes and rubbish, a luxurious swimming pool and mountains beyond, a single cloud in a blue sky, airports, an advertisement for a porn theatre, crowds at the Louvre, sex shops and soap. It shows the variety of the world from sleaze to domesticity and it is held together by bright tones of red as accents. One of the most attractive photographs is simply colourful plastic pegs on a lawn strewn with autumn leaves. Certainly the effect of this huge endeavour is greater than the sum of its parts. The show is accompanied by bigger photographs which seem much more conventional by comparison although each has a small, disturbing quirk. Sculptural plaster of Paris hands are rendered strange by the layer of dust on them and a tidy image of a blond woman viewed from behind is given a little spin in the oblique glimpse of a piercing through her lower lip.

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