This new exhibition of works by gallery artist Chris Heaphy can be viewed as a lesson in the art of looking. While Heaphy provides us with representation, profiles and symbols that are instantly recognizable as they migrate across the canvas, the question of what we really see remains.
Is this indeed a summary of performances and behaviors as the paintings imply, or a series of views in which more is hidden than first look reveals? In spite of their visual complexity these paintings are misconceptions as much as they are bold perceptions: cameos on spin and perverse histories.
In View from the Top a couple of Victorian silhouettes from the age of empirical discovery and empire, stand atop the head of a Maori warrior. It is immediately historic in context, but of what history? It is clear however that it is not just the history of settlement told in profiles of huia, horsewomen and top hats, but more a history revised, of feathered heads and makomako (bellbird) unseen by the settlers who look out into the future of this new land or perhaps they are glancing back to where they originate from without seeing either way.
There is something gritty here, in the range of questions for which answers are unstable. Certainty is the illusion, for these are paintings of mystery hidden in memory, celebrating the now, looking towards the future.
Text influenced in part by Keith Stewart's writing on Chris Heaphy's new work.