Erika Holden

Main Gallery May 3rd to May 29th 2012

Rigour with Vigour - Appropriated Portraits

Those of us who share Erika Holden’s attraction for all that which is rusty and silently
patient in its inorganic neglected state will rejoice in this series of Appropriated Portraits that deftly tread the fine line between salvage and art making.
Often “our experience of changes that material objects, including our bodies” go through is regarded in an evaluative manner, even though change in itself is value-neutral. “We seem to have constructed a life process for each material and object from inception to an optimal state, prime condition, or peak, after which it is in steady decline.”
Holden acknowledges both the emotive pull of nostalgia and an ongoing fascination for finding beauty in the mundane as motivational departure points, which have led her to employ new processes and techniques in her art work.
The painted marks of these panels, spray booth components of Moir & Adams paint shop in 1950’s Gisborne, have an uncanny resonance with Erika’s own mark making. “ Robert Rauschenberg, Jean-Michel Basquiat and John Blackburn are important influences in the development of my own painting vocabulary. And I am drawn to the subversive nature of graffiti such as the work of British artist Banksy”
The challenge for Holden in this instance is the rigorous art process that she must put herself through in order to appropriate these panels. Firstly there is a re-looking: a visual editing that re-contextualizes the randomness of these paint marks and colours into an abstract narrative rhythm composed of texture, colour and sequence. Holden’s focus then turns to operating on the material qualities: on how she can alter the object’s discarded sense of “thingness” into the meaning making implicit in a work of art.
The manual transformation inherent in Holden’s appropriation occurs on the back of each panel. Each portrait is sealed after having layers of thick lead paint removed. Roofing profile is utilized as the mount and is fixed in place with industrial adhesive. Due to the technical expertise required to do this properly Holden employs metal work assistants and experiences for the first time an art making process that involves working with other people and with unfamiliar materials and equipment. Sparks fly literally and metaphorically. “The first time ever in preparing for an exhibition, where I have been dependent on others for the fabrication of my work. I have learnt a lot, about the making process, but more about myself.” It is here, over a period of long days peppered with noise, danger, toxic smells and substances that Holden’s rigour and vigour is most manifest.
Lastly there is the final mark of appropriation - the artist’s signature. Holden’s symbol is an oblong stamp of a crimson pohutakawa. In these works it is made out of an old cake tin and is riveted to each portrait.

Lise Strathdee
22 April 2012

1. ‘To save from ruin, harm, or destruction, including by the reuse of waste materials.’ Dictionary of Environment and Conservation, edited by Chris Park, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, First Edition 2007
2. Everyday Aesthetics, Yuriko Saito, Oxford University Press Inc. New York, 2007 pp. 149
3. ‘The taking over of a real object or work of art into another work of art, for example in Cubist art in which fragments of newspapers were included to represent themselves. The term has particularly been used by artists since the 1980s’.Concise Dictionary of Art Terms, edited by Michael Clark, Oxford University Press, 2001

This image gallery only shows some of the works on display