SOPHIE BANNAN AND DAEGAN WELLS
This exhibition has two points of departure; two sites, similar but distinct, upon which scenes of nation building, homemaking, and resource extraction have played out and continue to play out. The first is Waiuta, a century ago the location of the South Island’s largest gold mine, now a ghost town. The other is an isolated dairy farm in coastal Southland. Together, Sophie Bannan and Daegan Wells use these sites to speculate upon methods of feeling through histories of place, and possibilities for inhabiting the present.
Waiuta acts as a kind of ‘test site’ for Sophie Bannan for a methodology the artist terms ‘ethnoarcheology,’ a process which involves recreating historical objects as a means of making contact with the people who may have used them and the lives they may have lived. For Hut for a Sensuous Gold Miner, Bannan has taken ecological and geological field samples from the town—gold, quartz, fungi and flora—and suspended them in candles. During the course of the show, these will burn down, changing form as they release fumes and scents, their structural integrity compromised as they melt away onto walls and floor of the gallery. Alongside these candles is a series of double-exposed photographs taken of Waiuta and the areas surrounding the town. Different views of Waiuta at different times of day are superimposed over each other, troubling the viewer’s ability to locate these scenes within a linear timeline of the place.
In Wells’ work, history becomes a record of bodies meeting, transmission becomes a measure of contact between people and the world. Hanging from the gallery’s walls and the strange, bricked-up windows which punctuate the space are weavings, supported by ceramic hooks produced from clay from the farm where the artist lives. These were made on the same loom Wells’ grandmother used. The same woman, Isabel Bates, who taught his grandmother recently taught Wells. These objects, then, take place in a dual temporal register, they are at once a means for Wells to refamiliarise himself with a familiar place, to gesture back to the gestures made by his grandmother sitting at her loom and her forbears before her, and, as domestic objects, perhaps destined to line the walls or drape over the chairs in the farmhouse in Southland, they gesture towards an ongoing project of homemaking, to the means by which one must make oneself comfortable against rough weather, changing atmospheres, bad days.
Sophie Bannan is based in Auckland. She has an MFA from University of Christchurch and is currently a doctoral candidate at Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland. Recent projects include House Studies, Jonathan Smart Gallery, Christchurch, 2016; Did you ever see anyone shot by a gun without bleeding? with Dan Nash, Rm, Auckland, 2017; Backwater, North Projects, Christchurch, 2015; The Optimists with John Ward Knox, Blue Oyster Art Project Space, Dunedin, 2014. She was co-founder and director, with Sophie Davis and Grace Ryder, of artist-run initiative North Projects, Christchurch.
Daegan Wells is currently based in Southland. He has an MFA from University of Canterbury. Recent projects include A Gathering Distrust, Ilam Campus Gallery, Christchurch, 2018; The Tomorrow People (group), Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi, Wellington, 2017; Contemporary Christchurch (group), Centre of Contemporary Art, Christchurch, 2016; Private Lodgings, Blue Oyster Art Project Space, Dunedin, 2016. He was the 2017 Olivia Spencer Bower artist-in-residence.