Martin Poppelwell - Unravelled - City Gallery Wellington

30 Nov 2019 — 13 Apr 2020

In 1968, American sculptor Robert Morris coined the term ‘anti-form’ to distinguish a new kind of sculpture that had emerged in reaction to minimalism. Where it stressed composition and organisation, the new art preferred decomposition and disorganisation. In place of strict geometries, Morris, Eva Hesse, Richard Serra, Lynda Bengalis, and Barry Le Va draped, poured, and scattered material. Their work emphasised material, mutability, process. Unravelled brings together five artists who connect with this tradition, embracing disorder and irregularity.

The regular grid is a modernist staple. However, Melbourne’s Kerrie Poliness and Napier’s Martin Poppelwell make their grids irregular. For her wall drawings, Poliness estimates key points by eye, so her grids expand and contract as if unevenly stretched across the architecture. While her grids are drawn with sharp ruled lines, Poppelwell’s grids are hand painted. His grids suggest abraded, frayed, threadbare textiles, albeit rendered in crisp graphic contrast.

Wellington artist Kirsty Lillico became known for cutting shapes—derived from the floorplans of modernist buildings—from bits of old carpet, hanging and draping them in ways that countered modernist rectitude. She has discarded the floorplans, but continues to improvise works from pieces of old carpet, joining them with big folksy stitches, allowing the shapes to fold and flop sculpturally.

Also from Wellington, Isabella Loudon soaks twine in cement and hangs it out to cure, so the forms—informed by gravity—set. Her work explores the graphic and sculptural possibilities of this procedure. Shapes are inverted and combined. Her works lean against the wall, hang from hooks like rotting cadavers, or form miraculous upstanding architectures. Here, twine lines penetrate metal grids in disagreement.

Auckland artist Peter Robinson presents small metal works: a mound of metal shavings is haunted by its likely prior state as a rectangular block and bent wires clump like a fur ball graphic. Robinson sensitises us to varieties of irregularity.

Unravelled … for those who like their formalism a bit informal.


Martin Poppelwell.
Study for Ancient Artefect, 2019.
Acrylic on canvas, 2000x2000mm