Art for the computer age.
Two recent Auckland exhibitions demonstrated 3D digital rendering in a sophisticated dialogue with pictorial traditions, while a third dismissed the digital altogether. Rick Killeen's Catcher at Ivan Anthony Gallery was surprising in its baroque intensity. Far from his trademark cut-outs, these are complex, computer-realised compositions of humanoid figures surrounded by patterned objects. But Killeen is not done with his old works - the silhouettes of bugs and fish are recycled as just another texture with which to clothe his computer-generated cylinders and cones. Other patterns are William Morris or Rorschach-inspired, or else they are the bold black-and-white triangles of Fijian masi.
Killeen's abiding interest in collections and museums means that his humanoid characters sport some recognisable characteristics. Perhaps the figure in Spanner is part-Hopi Katchina doll, and Eskimo Hat's creature is part Pacific Northwest totem-pole? But these characters are robotic and otherworldly, or else they are part machine or part architecture.
This suite of works simultaneously attracts and repels the gaze; the 3D depth battles for visual supremacy with the densely patterned surfaces (and loses). Killeen's richness of allusion speaks of an amazing intellect, but the intricacy is weirdly oppressive.
Gregory Bennett's Automatopia at Vavasour Godkin covers similar territory but with a different visual effect. Bennett's interest in 3D modelling started with moving image works, and his imagery is sparse and understated. Humanoid males, white, hairless and featureless, are Bennett's raw material. He animates their angular, unclothed forms, making them repeat simple patterns of behaviour. In a DVD projection, Bennett has his cast of thousands ascending space in a spiral staircase formation, as if enacting their DNA genealogy.
Bennett has started making 2D prints of his 3D graphics, allowing some beautiful abstract forms to emerge. Shrunk to ant-like size, his army of clones dance in ever more complex configurations. In conga-lines with legs akimbo, they resemble centipedes, or else an elaborate joke on Edweard Muybridge's photographic portrayals of movement. Sometimes, the clones group together in star shapes, like anemones or water-ballerinas Esther Williams-style. In the moving version, these stars pulsate, creating a visual blob-and-blip effect that's not unlike boiling mud. In the prints, they look like snowflakes or constellations on a black ground, but close-up they are full of fractal complexity. Bennett raises questions about the life of digital creations - against his inky backdrops he plays God with these tiny souls, sometimes tossing them into the abyss like Michelangelo's Last Judgement. But these infinitely self-replicating beings may outgrow their creator - a possibility that Bennett allows us to glimpse through his vertiginous repetition of motifs.
In an all-out rejection of such digital shenanigans, photographer Darren Glass has for years dedicated himself to the DIY pinhole camera, allowing light to have an (almost) unmediated dialogue with the photographic paper. Last year at Anna Miles Gallery, Glass exhibited the results of his Frisbee cams, beautiful sunbursts and swirls of light, like photographs from deep space, often mimicking the human iris, that apparatus of seeing which we share with the camera. This year, Glass has gone to town with a variety of pinhole cameras, and this time it's the cameras that are on display, not their products. Lemniscate is a giant wood veneer infinity symbol with buckles, like a carry case for a monster musical instrument or a mafioso's machine-gun; Descending is a collection of PVC pipes duct-taped together in a spiral, custom-built for photographing the spiral staircase in Achilles House.
Then there are Glass's drawings of potential pinholes, which are increasingly bizarre and even vainglorious. There are up-skirt cams and pie cams, log cams and bush-hut cams that blend perfectly into shrubbery. The drawings are scrappy and madcap, on all kinds of paper and with varying degrees of plausibility. Glass's eccentricities demonstrate a love for his medium and a healthy disdain for photographic fads and the worship of the mighty computer.