Art New Zealand

Symbolic Tensions The Work of Alexis Neal

Something to Remember, an exhibition of work by Alexis Neal and Elke Finkenauer at Gus Fisher Gallery in 2018, took as its starting point the late Louise Bourgeois’ artist book Nothing to Remember. Published shortly before her passing, the book contemplates how memory contributes to a sense of identity, and the attempt to hold on to it.

For Alexis Neal, there is much to remember, and indeed, recover, within Māori art. Her subject matter draws on feminine cultural memory that still resonates in Māori adornment, weaponry and domestic artefacts. While research into historical contextual information underpins her inquiry, it is primarily through process that the artist seeks access to the mentalities that drove the development and evolution of their objects. The sensible epistemologies—the concerns, values, tastes and habits that unified and distinguished our predecessor cultures—expressed through form, offer insight into who their makers and users, our predecessors, were. And this contributes to our understanding of who we are today.

There is symbolic tension within Neal’s work between the uncapturable lived experience of the three-dimensional, and an intellectual, cerebral relationship, represented in the hyper-flattening tropes of printmaking—the processes of which tend to involve reverse construction and images articulated through layers of shadow. Something about it is

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