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Patrick Lundberg’s most recent project at Te Tuhi took place alongside Select > Effect > Export—a group exhibition by the gallery’s newly appointed curator, Stephen Cleland. Featuring works by John Lyall, Simon Morris, Sarah Munro, Rose Nolan and DJ Simpson, the show looked to work which employed mathematical and mechanical methods of art production. Superficially the works shared an inorganic factory finish and, more subtly, a reliance on systems to predetermine or shape their formal outcomes. On closer inspection elements in the exhibition worked to confuse and complicate this mandate, creating welcome nuance within a theme that risked oversimplifying a wide spectrum of practice. Both Munro’s blood-red curved fibreglass ‘paintings’ and Morris’s Manganese Blue Line, 5 hours 57 minutes (the title refers to the time taken to hand-paint the undulating pattern) gestured toward the balance between the body and the machine-made, while Rose Nolan’s mural-size ‘DIFFICULT’ seemed to loudly, if ambiguously, provoke the old skirmish between abstraction and information.
Staged as a parallel project, Lundberg’s formally precise, reductive patterns carved directly into wall and ceiling inhabited the small gallery in the foyer and crept into the peripheries of both the physical and discursive space of the curated show. For an earlier work at Te Tuhi, Lundberg’s carved lines traced the boundaries of the wall, swerving for electrical sockets and other architectural idiosyncrasies, to create a frame-like border. In this project the sprays and grids of small circular holes shadowed the effect of track lighting on the white planes of the gallery interior, visible as one moved through the various spaces. Lundberg’s works are always modest, the patterns are characteristically simple abstract shapes and their colour is utterly contingent on the colours that dwell beneath the surface (as you might imagine they are often white on white, with hints of raw timber). The final form and placement of the works are determined by phenomenal elements of a given environment, feeding off and into a conception of architecture as not merely a physical container for objects, but as space charged with all the dynamics of active, perceiving bodies. Lundberg directs his viewer to the conditions of their encounter—for Te Tuhi in particular, with the minimum of fuss or novelty, he had us traversing the multiple spaces, seeking out the previously overlooked details of the architecture, paying special attention to the peripheries of the exhibition hall, peering into dimly lit corners.
Lundberg’s cuts are, by nature, transgressive. Perhaps they lack the illicitness and radicality of détournee or graffiti (the Italian origin graffio means ‘to scratch’), but in cutting through the surface, they violate the neutral indifference of the gallery, doing it a small violence. Uncovering traces of the past that dwell in the subterranean, Lundberg creates a rupture, a tiny space of indeterminacy that just momentarily upsets the linear continuum of history to reveal a productive instability. For galleries housed in older buildings such as Auckland’s Room 103, Lundberg has uncovered a marbled spectrum of colours lurking beneath fresh layers of white paint. Recent works carved into old cupboard doors resemble shallow, yet always very crisp, archaeological digs. In a culture in which things are outmoded long before they fall into decay and ruin, these incisions work with and against modernity’s ideal of progress (exemplified by the gallery’s insistence upon the ‘new’). Fully aware of their own very limited lifespan, Lundberg’s formal excavations refuse to join the rapid cycle of production and waste by creating through subtraction and negation.