Jonathan Bottrell Jones and Jim Viveaere : Tony Green


Jonathan Bottrell Jones (Australia) and Jim
Vivieaere (New Zealand) "‘RED OUT

September - Auckland Society of the Arts Gallery

There’s a story here. It began with an e-mail exchange between these two
artists of colour -- Jonathan Jones in Australia, Jim Vivieaere in New
Zealand. . Then two thick courier packets arrived here from Jonathan
with 142 rectangular sheets of card. Each one looks like it was a part
of one large painted piece, a broad blood-red meander on white, with sun
images here and there, a map-like painting of a territory. Each one has
a word on it, made it seems of letters cut out of magazine adverts.
Black thread runs through the meander, stitched by machine. Each sheet
had a tissue paper covering, so that the meander looks like blood
showing through flesh. Jim put them on one wall, 34 along the bottom
then irregular towers of them nearly to the ceiling. It is plain that
the meander is now broken up, the original order dispersed, the black
threads no longer join the pieces together, the threads hang loose, no
apparent syntax holds the English words together. The disintegration of
systems of text and image are equated here with the destructive damage
to the culture of the colonised people. Jim Vivieaere has removed some
of the protective tissue paper that covered the painted sheets. The
result is visually dramatic, as if stripping away skin to expose blood
red arteries.

On the adjacent wall Vivieaere he put up an inscription, telling
something of the relation between the two artists, their family, and
telling also of Jonathan’s flying other artists in a ‘plane, so they can
see the land from the air, laid out, of course, like a map.

The inscription ends by remarking that this is the last show ever to be
put on by the Auckland Society of the Arts, the long history of which,
back to the nineteenth century, coincides with colonisation of Australia
and New Zealand, particularly the colonist hope that the aboriginal
inhabitants of Australia will be Bred Out. This was shortened to “ ‘RED
out in the punning title of the show, with its blood red meander,
inscribed on the floor in blue.

There is more than a little irony in the conjunction of a primarily
colonist artists’ art society and the history of colonisation. My sense
of it is, this was a strong show, with good reason to provoke disquiet,
a good way to end the Society’s exhibiting history. Art institutions are
by no means politics-free zones. It is fitting that the last show of a
society which originally measured its art by British academic standards
should be by artists of colour - and that it should openly manifest a
social history that had, within the art institution, been largely
ignored or kept out of sight.
Tony Green