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A show for my friends – Tao Wells at the Aaron Laurence Gallery

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A show for my friends

Tao Wells at Aaron Laurence Gallery
10 Aug 2006 - 3 Sep 2006

by David Cauchi
R-room2a Tao Wells seems to have got himself a reputation as a 'difficult artist'. I don't believe this is either a useful or an accurate description.

What's much more interesting is that this is his first show in a dealer gallery – in a commercial context. This context makes all the difference. There's a price list and even some of those all so gratifying red dots. Although the show's title is A show for my friends, I reckon the key title that unlocks it is Bildungsroman (this is the title of two works, both of which consist of withdrawn library copies of magazines for teenage girls fixed to a plank). This term is usually defined as an account of an individual's growth and development – an account of how they got to the point they're at.

Not only does Tao like to confound expectations (perhaps the best example of which before this one was his contribution to an Artspace show where he presented the work of other artists instead of his own, apparently causing quite a stink) but he also has consistently engaged with art that is anything but commercial – such as arte povera, performance, and conceptual art. This show contains elements of all these things.

Tao makes use of the unusual layout of the gallery. There are three underground rooms, and the rough as guts material of the works nicely matches the rough walls and exposed pipes. Different aspects of his practice occupy different rooms. One only contains photos of videos of performances, and another has the two Bildungsroman works as well as a construction involving (in part) a half-erased blackboard that alludes to the conceptual underpinnings of his work (he's also an art teacher). The main room contains most of the works.

There are a lot of ideas in play here. References to theoretical physics also play games with the interaction of 2D and 3D (such as Horizon + Horizon, A volume's relation to what fills it, and Model for a 2D and 3D universe). Wittgenstein's famous observation that art and games are similarly indefinable is referenced in several works. There's the Monopoly boards in Plan, the chess set in Win (which of course refers to another artist who liked to play games with people's expectations), ping pong in Round phallicism, and Cricket bat.

The one that made me laugh out loud though was the blush red of Embarrassment (Freud and the second commandment). Needless to say, Freud reckoned that that which is repressed finds other ways to come to the surface and christianity's second commandment is an injunction against making images. 
room1a-1 room1b-1

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John Hurrell
122 articles & 1507 comments since 2 Dec 2005
Great to have a contribution from Wellington.

I'd like to know more about the 'Embarrassment' work, David. Is Tao really capable of blushing? What is repressed that all Artbash readers should be told about?
David Cauchi
9 articles & 122 comments since 9 May 2006
I have to admit...

...I haven't seen him blush myself, but I'm perfectly willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Surely it's the desire to be a painter that's repressed. After all, the New Zealand Oxford Dictionary defines artist as '1 a painter'.

Oh, and cheers for the comment. I haven't written a review before (unless you count a catalogue essay I wrote for one of my brother's shows a while ago), mostly cos I thought there was a conflict of interest. This was a useful exercise though.
3 articles & 31 comments since 7 Mar 2006

I really like this quote as applied to all criticism.

"A perfect judge will read each work of wit
With the same spirit that its author writ;"
[Pope, "An Essay on Criticism," 1709]

Tao I am still thinking on your beautiful show.
46 articles & 641 comments since 26 Jan 2006
that got me

blushing, F;;K
46 articles & 641 comments since 26 Jan 2006
painters are tradespeople

I'd like to be more Management...
46 articles & 641 comments since 26 Jan 2006

management is no good, CEO, nope, what else ya got for me....
46 articles & 641 comments since 26 Jan 2006

for a day, I thinnk the only thing repressed is power, and I share that with eveyone.
Spider You
1 articles & 107 comments since 21 Mar 2006
I just couldnt resist...but...

flake, your cricket bats hit me for six...
william blake
29 articles & 728 comments since 15 Aug 2006
angle parking

in a parallel universe.
1 comment since 12 Sep 2006
I saw it too

I saw Tao standing in a T-shirt that said 'sale' (which is french for 'filthy', I think), outside Aaronlawrence, shouting something about a branding exercise. Lured by the sense if not the understanding of this pretext, I went inside. At first, I was captivated by the plumbing, but then I spotted the exhibition, the leering red Freud-face before me, his mephistophelian beard unmistakeable in this, the last of ten paintings, begun with off-sick yellowbrowns and moving through a series by which Tao had sought a slowly surer form and arrived at this, undoubtedly Freud, peering like some intricate joke from the redness (which yet retained some of its unfirmness). I laughed and said that I enjoyed art with a sense of humour, but Tao seemed bemused. It was, I suppose, late in the day.

Woodwork on the floor never really seduces me, but the Maratrushka plastic bag ensemble wired to a blackboard seemed to pretty well summarise something unspeakable about the availablity of education to the masses, reminding me of an immage I once had of the Otago university commerce department as an immense, three-year under-sea tunnel from which, once you emerge, you grab a handful of appropriate bullet-pointed pamphlets ...

I'm sorry that my memory is fading now. I remember the teen magazines pasted to inclined boards, and ... oh yes! The layered monopoly universe. Brilliant. But the small flaps he'd cut into the boards, so that one might move from one to the other (from Mayfair, of course), were shut. The possibility of transendance thus removed.

Why Tao, why?
arty farty
2 comments since 19 Nov 2006

Well didn't go to the opening but heard it was a good bash and apparently Jim and Mary Barr were there.

The art or could you say non-art....suppose he's going for the crude look. Didn't like the wood, but liked the plastic bags...seems to be the way of art in this city or perhps its the Massey way.... just blowing in the wind. Personally, unless the artist is having a puke or crap, I'm sick of the artist reflecting on themselves, who wants it.
46 articles & 641 comments since 26 Jan 2006
you said it

46 articles & 641 comments since 26 Jan 2006

F u fart.
1 comment since 2 Nov 2011
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