CHRIS POLE – Otehake -15 Feb-1 April, 2022
“Landscape might be something of a commonplace term, but it is one with a variety of different meanings. It might be used to describe the material terrain or topography of land, or to conceptualise the broader interactions of environment. As a political space, landscape might refer to human entanglements with the ‘natural’ world and the social implications of dwelling in or being-in-relation-to the land. Landscape is, of course, also an aesthetic category, one tied to a long history of picturing and framing the land.
The works in Otehake gesture toward these complex associations. The paintings in this exhibtion are drawn from Pole’s journey into the Otehake Valley in Aurthur’s Pass National Park during 2019. Back in the studio, he worked from photographs and his own memories of the trip to recall the scenes of bush and river that we see in these works. Alert to the layered processes of representation at play, Pole doesn’t strive to give us any kind of objective picturing of the landscape, but instead, I think, asks us to consider how our experiences of the world are mediated through images and other kinds of framing devices.
One way in which Pole focuses our attention on this is to slice and skew his images, creating a rupture through the centre of the picture plane, and opening up areas of empty space. In doing so, the landscape is more emphatically rendered as image; as the subject of a gaze – framed, composed and re-presented. So too, the fact of these images as paintings is made explicit. Breaking the illusion of the painting through the diagonal split allows it to be seen as an abstract, pigment-covered surface. Like the white licks of paint that mark out the corners of each picture, the brushstrokes that together conjure hilltops, trees, stones, and lichen are revealed all the more clearly as marks on canvas.
But if Pole’s paintings of Otehake foreground the nature of representation, they do so from a particular point of view. Having been immersed in the landscape he depicts, he brings an embodied perspective to the work. However partial, these paintings operate as a representation of the artist’s movement along his tramping route, mapping a personal journey through time and space; one that relies on a narrative and physical encounter with place. This body of work therefore also suggests an important understanding of landscape as something lived and experienced in a reciprocal dynamic.”
– Barbara Garrie
Christchurch based artist Chris Pole completed a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury in 2002, and was awarded the Vision Culture Residency at Shalini Ganendra Fine Arts in Kuala Lumpur in 2013. Recent solo exhibitions include ‘Crossover’ at Warwick Henderson Gallery in Auckland and ‘Relative Locations’ at PGgallery192 in 2019.