“Kregar’s humanist interest is evident in the way that his work asks how we go there, who we are and where we are going. The degree to whether a questioning of how creativity can address world systems, ecological change and evolution is a legacy of growing up in a family that was Christian in Communist Slovenia or a critical response to our times must remain open”
Dr. Zara Stanhope, Living in these times, essay; Reflective Lullabies, 2019
Auckland has been renamed the city of cones; they are everywhere from suburban streets to the CBD, they direct our movement and our consciousness. These orange beacons of progress march down every street, seventeen more kilometres rolled out during the lockdown to create extra space for social distancing. I have been watching their expansion for years as they redirect traffic, merge lanes and fulfil traffic management requirements, but, more recently, they divide the city into a myriad of one-way roads with their presence beginning to feel farcical. It reminds me of Pat and Matt, a Czechoslovakian slapstick stop-motion animated series from my childhood in socialist Slovenia then part of Tito’s Yugoslavia. The two protagonists go to extreme lengths to fix things in their home and in turn create more and more work for themselves without ever fixing the problem.
There is an absurdity to a glass road cone, the most practical of objects made obsolete. Like Czech humour, there is an underbelly to the joke, one that questions our progress by marking its fragility. I have taken the mass-produced road cone and sculpted it at a 1:1 scale in wax then created moulds in which to cast its pieces into lead crystal glass. It’s a laborious process in comparison to the speed of the injected plastic variation that march out of the factory and across our landscape with over a million out on New Zealand streets at any given time. Their configurations have become more and more baffling – progress or traffic management gone mad. They’ve become symbolic of our frustration at the insufficient practices adopted by councils and large civil projects around New Zealand. Our collective consciousness bemoaning the closed lane with no actual workers in site apart from the few on smoko in their trucks. I have begun to read them as a metaphor of inefficiency mirroring the socialist and communist state organisation of labour practices that I grew with.
I came to New Zealand 23 years ago and I experienced many barriers that emigrants face, from language barriers to the awareness of being other. There is a period of time early on where you are just surviving in a world far away from your family and friends before you reflect on where you are from and where you are going. The cones and barriers are a reflection of this process and are a continuation of my practice of transforming mundane and aesthetically invisible objects into the focus of our attention.
It felt especially meaningful to work on these glass cones and barriers during the Level 4 lockdown. They have become symbolic to me of this period – fragile barriers in a time where there is a constant discussion about social distancing and keeping safe. The title of the exhibition Divided we fall is inspired by the Aesop’s story of The Four Oxen and the Lion; if we each work on our own we are doomed, it’s only when we collaborate together in unity that we are strong. An allegory that resonates strongly in the global pandemic we find ourselves currently in.
- Artist Statement, July 2020
N.B. This exhibition was originally shown at our Lorne St Gallery last month, but due to disruptions throughout the exhibition it has been extended and reimagined at our Kitchener St Gallery