Art installations can be tricky things to get right, but, like cooking from a complex recipe, very rewarding when it all comes together well. The food analogy is particularly fitting for two of the three installation artworks currently on display at the museum, one of which features a floor covered in rice (‘Indra’s Bow’ by Tiffany Singh and Jo Blogg) and the other, chocolate fish on the wall that visitors are welcome to take and eat (‘Koha to Hōhā’ by Israel Tangaroa Birch).
The third artwork was the most recent to be installed, as hundreds of ribbons were hung from the pillars of the museum forecourt ahead of the exhibition opening last week. Like the other two installations inside the museum, ‘The Colours of Light’ was challenging to install and needed some tweaking to get it right. But all three works are more than worth the effort.
‘The Colours of Light’ is refreshing in many different ways, most noticeably by bringing vibrant colour and movement to the front of the museum. Artist Tiffany Singh also tied over a thousand handmade bells to the ribbons that give wonderfully warm rich tones, a welcome contrast to the usual noise of the roundabout nearby.
But beyond that, it’s refreshing in its genuine approach to art that can be appreciated by all. Much of today’s art is alienated from the general public, which I think is primarily because in our consumerist society, most artworks function as luxury commodities; unfortunately creating the illusion that fine art is the domain of the wealthy few.
Then there is the focus in modern times on the conceptual side of art, which often forgets to allow for an intuitive or emotional response. Artworks are regularly accompanied by text that can give great insight into the intellectual element, but can also give the false impression that art has one true ‘meaning’ that a viewer needs to understand before they can appreciate the artwork.
Singh takes all of that baggage and throws it away. Her artworks are not fixed objects to be bought and sold for mainly private collections, instead she recreates them again and again in different public contexts around New Zealand and internationally for everyone to enjoy. She has a particular talent for creating work that gives a rich sensory experience, expressing joy, peace or a sense of the sacred (or all three) without any need for the viewer to know about the artist or her work – or any other art, for that matter.
And yet, if it does intrigue you and you want to know more, Singh’s artworks will reward your curiosity. In ‘The Colours of Light’ for example, there are meanings to be found in the colours of the ribbons, the inclusion of the bells, and the significance of placing the artwork outside an entranceway.
Many art students embrace installation and other ephemeral art forms while studying, when their creativity is free to some extent from the pressures of commercialism. Then they leave and find that platforms in which to present their performance, new media, or installation art are rare, and in a culture fixated on the production of things, they must either turn to creating sellable art objects or find work in some other field.
I find this a terrible shame, as ephemeral art is a wonderfully free-spirited mode of expression, unconcerned with commercial appeal or suitability for display in a domestic context. It’s great that museums and galleries are places that support these forms of art in accordance with our role as public cultural institutions. It was a privilege to work with Singh, we’ve been pleased by the positive response to her art, and we look forward to presenting the work of more artists like her in future.
Jessica Mio – Art Curator, MTG Hawke’s Bay
Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 5 November 2016