A spell-binding showcase of Occulture: The Dark Arts at Wellington's City Gallery

Lorene Taurerewa can't explain the forces that take over when she is in her studio.
MONIQUE FORD / STUFF

Lorene Taurerewa can't explain the forces that take over when she is in her studio.

If artist Lorene Taurerewa draws a flower, expect it to have layers of ambiguity: broken, twisted,  a clown face, a demon girl and black shadows. 

It might not have been her intention, but the unexplainable energy that forces the New York-based Wellington artist to draw against her wishes, does so anyway.

Taurerewa's style touches on the world of the mystics, and she's back in town for that reason -  to present two bodies of works at the City Gallery's Occulture: The Dark Arts exhibition opening this weekend.

Lorene Taurerewa's The Masked Man, 2008
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Lorene Taurerewa's The Masked Man, 2008

"If I'm drawing a person, I'll put three or four different people into the one person," she explains​.

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"I'll start with a woman and then I think, oh no, I'm going to make a man, and then I'll make another woman.

Dane Mitchell, Ceramic Fields (Night Sky).
City Gallery Wellington

Dane Mitchell, Ceramic Fields (Night Sky).

"For a long time I used to think, what the hell is going on? As soon as you go into a studio you get pulled two different ways. It's like something polarised. I'll be working on a man but something will just want to take me somewhere else. It's like these polar things pulling at you, it's like forces pull at you.

"It happens to me every time I go into the studio, you feel it. It really can rile you up, you feel the juices and it gets you going."

Occulture: The Dark Arts is a discovery of artists' perspectives into the mysterious forces at play - whether it be witches or astral projectors, rituals and astronomical charts - the unknown will be summoned, explored and devoured.

Henry Fuseli Study for the three witches in Macbeth 1798
City Gallery Wellington

Henry Fuseli Study for the three witches in Macbeth 1798

Taurerewa says she is drawn to things that enter the realm of peculiar.

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That might include the dog she spotted climbing a ladder on a three-store building in Nepal,  or the young children running around with black charcoal rings around their eyes.

"I'm really interested in marginal things, also things happening on the periphery," she says.

Yin-Ju Chen's Liquidation Maps: East Timorese Crisis, East Timor, 1999 2014
City Gallery Wellington

Yin-Ju Chen's Liquidation Maps: East Timorese Crisis, East Timor, 1999 2014

"Anything that's a little bit odd is always going to grab your attention."

Taurerewa's work, with its dark clowns, pretty dolls and faces that resemble three disturbed souls in one figure will stand along side artists such as occult legend and Thelema (religion) founder Aleister Crowley; The Witch of Kings Cross Rosaleen Norton - who would draw her paintings from visions that she received in her trances;  Australian artist Mikala Dwyer - who paints spells and hangs them on the walls; and New Zealander Fiona Pardington - who will present an alter with her taonga that she uses in her photographs.

Before the exhibition opens, a spell will be cast over the Gallery.

The Vision, Rosaleen Norton, c.1970
City Gallery Wellington

The Vision, Rosaleen Norton, c.1970

Curator Aaron Lister picked the theme for the three month exhibition, noting that a "renewed energy" within the dark arts is picking up.

"I think it's just a thread which runs through the whole history of art and it's obviously intriguing to me," he says.

Over time, he says, art has become a commodity and has a greater connection with the physical world.

"These artists are interested in exploring alternative possibilities, so now we have to be open to these possibilities that they bring," Lister says.

Other artists exhibiting their exploration of 'the dark side' are NZ artist Dane Mitchell and Yin-Ju Chen from Taiwan.

Mitchell, made famous after he won the 2009 Waikato National Contemporary Art Awards with his Collateral entry (it was a pile of rubbish), is revealing the world of shamans and astral projections with his work Celestial Fields.

The bizarre story starts out while Mitchell was in Gwangju, Korea.

He contacted a shaman to assist him in drawing astronomical signs on his 12 large-scale domes. During the making of the domes, the shaman added hallucinogenic plant material that he would normally use in ritual practises.

The plant material would then burn to ashes as the dome cooked inside the fires of the kiln, which was then moulded by a plasticine figure of Mitchell's tongue.

Mitchell also invited the shaman to work with him in a glassblowing studio so Mitchell could capture the shaman's breath, and therefore a magical spell, in glass.

But the shaman refused, saying he preferred to communicate with Mitchell on an astral plane.

"Which was really kind of an intense confrontation on my part to try to understand how I might do that," Mitchell says.

Mitchell recalls himself composing mental emails to the shaman, but couldn't figure out how to receive the information back.

Instead, he sent  real things - such as photographs, drawings and, one time, a plastic container that expands with water or air. 

Mitchell, after not hearing anything back from the shaman, went to visit him - but was stopped by his personal assistant, so to speak.

The PA gave Mitchell the plastic container full of the shaman's breath.

"So I took that breath, I inhaled it and blew it into the glass," Mitchell says.

"It was kind of a weird infusion of two people's breath and blowing into the glass."

Mitchell couldn't say whether he made contact on the astral plane or not.

"How am I to know," he asks. 

"I have no way of measuring that. It's possible? It certainly made me second guess every decision of my work as to whether it was mine or not."

Is there a link between mankind's massacres and star constellations?

Chen started her "painstaking" investigations, drawing up the astrological constellations of Asian massacres mapped out on large sheets of paper.

Her show, Liquidation Maps, is featuring as part of the The Dark Arts exhibition.

Chen chose five massacres including Leiyu Kinmen Massacre in 1987 (Taiwan), Sook Ching Massacres in 1942 (Singapore), Khmer Rouge genocide in 1975 (Cambodia), massacres in East Timor in 1999 and Gwangju Uprising in 1980 (South Korea). 

She says history books and webpages just offered different perspectives of the same event.

"If I can switch the point of view from the sky, it provides a different point of view for my audience to read the history," she says.

The Leiyu Kinmen Massacre, saw 19 people - including a pregnant woman -  murdered by the Republic of China's military when they tried to seek political asylum.

Chen says Mercury, the planet of communication, was in descent.

"(The astrologer) pointed out, does anybody speak speak Vietnamese and not Chinese," Chens says.

Her drawings, which includes "sacred geometry" which is the "universe's language" are drawn with charcoal pencil on 125x125cm papers.

"It's a good chance for me to learn more about my region," she says.

Chen, speaking from her homeland in Taipei, is more drawn to the "darker side of humanity". "It's based on my personality, I guess," she says.

She is staying in Wellington for five weeks as part of an art's residence visa.

Occulture: The Dark Arts runs from August 12 to November 19 and is free. 

Opening Day and Night Events
Saturday 12 August
1pm - Artists Simon Cuming, Dane Mitchell and Lorene Taurerewa discuss their work, and Robert Buratti talks about Aleister Crowley. In conversation with curator Aaron Lister.
3pm Artists Yin-Ju Chen, Jason Greig and Fiona Pardington discuss their work, and Robert Buratti talks about Rosaleen Norton. In conversation with curator Aaron Lister.
Opening Night Lecture: Artist as Prophet: Robert Buratti
6pm Robert Buratti traces the history of esoteric art, its major themes and practitioners. Followed by cash bar.
Opening Night Artists Performance
8pm Improvised noise performance from artists Simon Cuming and Jason Greig based on the diminished-fifth interval, also known as 'the Devil's tritone'.
Click here to go to the events page. http://citygallery.org.nz/events

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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