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Exhibition Archive

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Geographic juxtapositions

John Lyall’s posters advertise apocryphal exhibitions. Temporarily attached to vertical surfaces throughout the South Island, each is a different image from John’s body of work. Every titled poster has been assigned a location, and is hand-dated at the time of installation. These layered and slightly whimsical posters forge tenuous and putative connections between subjects and place.

And so the artist sets out on a journey, to install his own work. The South Island provides diverse locations – urban, rural, pastoral, mountainous, marine, glaciated, built and natural. Many of the places he selects resonate in populist or art history mythologies of place: Bluff (Fixed); Aramoana (Prone); Cass for the familiar Rita Angus painting (Bewildered); old stone bridge pylons at Alexandra following Laurence Aberhart’s photograph (Infinite); Fleur’s world-famous-in-New-Zealand seafood restaurant at Moeraki (At Rest); a motorcycle image in Invercargill for Burt Munroe (Sidecar); Tapanui (Flu): No Laughing Matter. At Upper Moutere, Toss Woollaston’s home, Violet was posted, the image a purple balloon dog made by a playful cabin steward of the flight from Jeju Island. In this allegorical homage Lyall connects disparate events with discrete places.

Others he selects because they particularly characterize remoteness – Oban on Stewart Island (Turn Back); Colac Bay (Sarajevo Rose); Doubtful Sound (Amaze); St Bathans (Spotted). These are incongruous places to post an ephemeral gallery flyer for an exhibition that is not going to happen, or that has not happened yet. The Cray Pot at the end of the road at Jackson Bay (Arabesque); a near-derelict pastel pink house in Naseby (White); who goes there, a North Islander might ask. Poster Boy happily makes his momentary mark, then moves on.

This project is commentary on our often scant knowledge of our own nation’s geography. It is also a game of geographic significance and insignificance in the popular imagination. Place and displacement juxtapose. At Otira Gorge, selected for its resonance of van der Veldon’s glorious painting of the cascade, Lyall poster turns up on an anonymous abandoned shed (Upon Reflection). At Fox Glacier a local guide approached to see why the tripod was set up facing

a corrugated green hut – not the glacier, the obvious prescribed vista for every visitor with a camera (Close But No Cigar). The Moa Flat poster Extinct features a fiberglass moa, a sculptural installation spotted in a bakery/café in Insadong, Seoul in 2009.

The small brass frog on Ultramarine installed at Haast was found in a market in that same colourful street in Seoul. Lyall carried this in his pocket to Jeju Island off Korea’s southern coast, where he happened upon a scoria garden wall painted bright blue. Just the place for the frog! Later, at Hyundai Beach, Busan, his crimson pohutukawa fairy Oh So Red! was set afloat on the tide, the dye quickly leaking from her skirt until the title became ironic; installed at Taylor’s Mistake. Another frog turns up, this one real, which jumped and basked on Lyall’s pond installation at the Waitakaruru Arboretum and Sculpture Park near Hamilton in 2009 (Infinity).

Small Kiss, installed at Akaroa, features two performance artists, Dutch and Georgian, wearing masks and fairy wings. These party items from Geoff’s Emporium on Dominion Road were distributed to fellow performers at the end of John’s piece at a performance event in Cheong-Ju. Feral Tango at Bealey is from a performance Flew at Auckland City Art Gallery in 2006. Look! at Hokitika is of Lyall performing in Whitcoulls window, Queen Street, Auckland during the 2008 Auckland Festival. Lyall’s work in Bosnia-Herzegovina at the Sarajevo Winter Festival, 2006, is documented in Split Image at the Chinese Garden, Dunedin.
At first take the posters advertise fake shows of works from international events, amalgamated by being gathered in real time in the South Island project. Collectively they constitute a musing about once isolated places now being digitalized and globalised. The juxtapositions of works created at various international sites and locally, against the southern landscape and built environment, can also be read as commentary on the mobility of contemporary artists and their practice. You can get to anywhere in the world from here!

Claudia Bell, May 2010.


John Lyall b. 1951

His practice is installation, but what is installed at any given time maybe objects, photographs, sound or performance, and may be installed, physically present or documented by the camera.

John Lyall was born in Sydney, Australia. He graduated with Bachelor of Fine Arts (double major in Sculpture; specialist areas sound and performance) from the Sydney College of the Arts in 1982.

Moving to New Zealand in 1983 he completed secondary teachers training in Auckland in 1984 and later obtained a Masters in Fine Arts, First Class Honours Sculpture from the University of Auckland in 1993?4, receiving the Fowlds Memorial Prize for pre-eminent Fine Arts Student at Elam.

Exhibiting since 1982 in solo and groups shows both within New Zealand and internationally. Including: 2009 Select>Effect>Export, group show Te Tuhi, Auckland, Since 2004 with Nine Dragon Heads, a Korean organization which invites international artists for installation, performance and exhibition within Korea and elsewhere (ie. 2010 Arko, Korea, 2009 Jeju Island, Korea, 2006 Winter Festival Sarajevo, 2005 Dawn Light, Australia); 2005 Uncanny, group show, Artspace, Auckland, 2002 A Moa, A Math, A Mount - drawings and photographs, Auckland; 2001 Bright Paradise, Triennial, Auckland Art Gallery; Darkness and Light; looking at landscape, New Gallery, Auckland, which travelled to Melbourne; 1997 - alt.nature at Artspace, Auckland; Towards an Hyper-Feral Art Aotearoa:Picketing the Sublime; given both a Blue Displacement, and an Illuminating Vessel, Auckland Art Gallery; 1995/6- Putting our Town on the Map, Rotorua Museum of Art & History.

In 1989 and 1992 he participated in the Soundwatch festivals and in 1993 as part of a concert of three New Zealand performers at SoundCulture, Tokyo he gave a solo performance. In 1999 at SoundCulture, Auckland he presented his performance Requiem for a Moa a cyber/opera and in 2000 Requiem for (dis-located) Electronic Moa was performed in Lancaster at the ‘Between Nature’, conference. Waltzing the Feral was performed at Artspace, Auckland as part of the Triennale in 2001.

Lyall is also a writer, writing on Landscape, Tourism, National Identity and Visual Culture.

He is represented in private and public collection; including Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington and the Rotorua Museum of Art and History.