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Contemporary focus: John Reynolds' Cloud

Charlotte Huddleston, Curator of Contemporary Art, says of this installation:

Fresh from the Walters Prize exhibition, and now on view in the Contemporary Focus section of Toi Te Papa, is the major text painting Cloud (2006) by John Reynolds.

John Reynolds, Cloud 2006, Purchased 2007, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
John Reynolds
Cloud 2006
oil paint marker on canvas
Purchased 2007, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Installation view. Photographer: Michael Hall

By now, Cloud will be quite familiar to exhibition followers, after wide coverage in Sydney, through the documentary Questions for Mr. Reynolds, and the 2008 Walters Prize nomination it earned Reynolds. However, many people are yet to experience the work first-hand, and so it is exciting to be exhibiting it here in Wellington as part of Toi Te Papa.

Comprised of 7081 small canvases bearing words and phrases from The Dictionary of New Zealand English, Cloud is a galaxy of words written in silver marker mapping some of the particularities of New Zealand English. Cloud not only operates as a lexicon, its scale as an installation is also architectural and immersive. The swarm of tile-like canvases engulfs the viewer. The silver text shimmers, shifting in and out of legibility, creating an installation that can be read as text in an associative and representational way, or viewed as an abstracted mass of tiles and markings. 

John Reynolds, Cloud (detail) 2006, Purchased 2007, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
John Reynolds
Cloud (detail) 2006
oil paint marker on canvas
Purchased 2007, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Photographer: Michael Hall

Reynolds is well known for his use of text on canvases that, separately, are pithy and poetic thoughts, and together can form playful and absurd prose. With Cloud, Reynolds has stretched this method further by creating one large work out of his signature style components. While Cloud embodies the peculiarities of New Zealand English, it is also about what surrounds the language. The title makes reference to Aotearoa (the Māori for New Zealand, literally 'the land of the long white cloud'), as well as to the living and changeable nature of language.

Cloud has such linguistic gems as: lolly water, the wop wops, golden akeake, technicolour yawn, Nippon clipon, fly cemetery, and, think big, as well as a huge range of less colourful nouns and verbs, and more conventional words describing flora and fauna. It maps some peculiar 'New Zealandisms', as well as indicating the linguistic relationships we share with other speakers of English.

John Reynolds, next to his artwork, Cloud
John Reynolds, next to his artwork Cloud
Photographer: Michael Hall

Cloud is on display from 7 March 2009 – 17 January 2010.

Previous contemporary focus:
Aspects of Abstraction
Kura kura Ngāi Tahu

Highlights

 

 
       
 

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