New Zealand


Karl FritschKarl Fritsch’s exhibition is in the pleasant rear room at Hamish McKay’s dealer gallery. This space is quite domestic in feel, with three wood-paneled walls, carpet on the floor, bookshelves, coffee tables and chairs. It is unusual and interesting to have a single artist’s work on show simultaneously at a dealer and a public gallery. (Fritsch's work is also on display in Scenes from the Munich Diamond Disaster at the City Gallery, Wellington, just across town.) The former comes with the implied undercurrent of commerce; discreet white pins mark the works that have been sold, sheets with the prices are quietly proffered.

Karl FritschHere, though it is already a less serious space than that of the public gallery, Fritsch has again taken remnants from the building process, blocks of framing timber, strips of plywood and created an environment for his jewelry/objects – a narrow, head-high, rough shelving system that seems to create a camouflage for some of the rings. They sit (or in the case of the heavier pieces, slump) in their plasticine supports and are out in the open. There is enjoyment in being able to view the pieces without the reflecting glass and the desire to experience the various tactile qualities makes for an interesting tension with the ‘do not touch the artwork’ indoctrination some have undergone (and a nightmare opening night for McKay as many did not seem to have been ‘educated’).

Available for close scrutiny, the raw power of the casting process and the artist’s fingerprints marking the surface of the soft wax in the shaping of each piece, are easier to read. The technical skill of traditional stonesetting and the rebellious exaggerated opposite of the obscuring prong or the vastly expensive laser-cut hole through the gem can be closely observed. Viewing feels a little dangerous – the heart can beat a little faster, hands sweat, as questions like, 'What if?' 'How much?' 'Which one?' flit unbidden through the mind. There is, however, room for a small, more intellectual exercise: 'Why these?' Is there something perverse in wanting to understand why some pieces can be sold and others must remain with the artist?

Karl FritschUnfortunately, many of the larger cast objects, hybrids such as the grater with molded aluminum handle made in Munich, are placed under glass. Many of these altered found objects are practical items and there is a sense of needing to feel the fit of them in the hand, the weight and balance. The question of function and form is unresolved. The work is sealed under cover on the coffee tables. Fritsch has again elevated the platform on which the pieces stand, turning the tables to plinths by the ambiguous placement of plinths under the tables. Fritsch’s interest in the manipulation of the larger space surrounding his work is intriguing and could be seen as testing the veracity of the boundary between fine art and craft.

Fritsch’s blend – tradition and anarchy – provides a challenge for every viewer. 

Vivien Atkinson

Vivien Atkinson was born in Melbourne, Australia and now lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She completed a BFA (Hons) at Massey University, Wellington, an MFA at RMIT in Melbourne, Australia and a BAPPA at Whitireia Polytechnic in Porirua, New Zealand. She is an active participant in TheSeeHere and TimRex and is a visual-arts fellow and part-time tutor (Contextual Studies) at Whitereia Polytechnic.