Unruly Memoirs: Nature Bites Back by Jane Zusters

19 Te Karita Road (The Bone People), 2014, Giclee print on 100% cotton rag acid free watercolour paper (Edition of 3 + 1 AP), 610mm x 410mm

Unruly Memoirs: Nature Bites Back

Jane Zusters

11 June to 28 June 2014

Unruly Memoirs: Nature Bites Back is a series of geopolitical montages from Christchurch-based photographer Jane Zusters. 
“…A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction” notes Virginia Wolf in the famous long essay A Room of One’s Own (1929). Arguably this is also true of any human being in order to feel human in the capitalist endgame we now find ourselves in, and more-so than ever for the creative practitioner. Money aside, the studio, study, man/woman cave is an extension of the mind and the blank canvas/sheet of paper – a space to symbolically solve problems in and find sanctuary from the distractions of the outside world that ever torment the sensitive as the harpies did King Phineas of Thrace. The creative mind is a paradox – it needs a thick skin to protect from the unrefined coarseness of mundane life it must filter for meaningful experiences, and no skin at all lest the subtlest nuances of that world be blocked out. The room is a compromise.

In this suite of giclée photomontages, Unruly Memoirs: Nature Bites Back, artist Jane Zusters cleverly counterpoints that feeling of sanctuary (at something of a premium in post-quake Christchurch) with the external and symbolic realities. The wall of a tranquil, cosy-looking bedroom dissolves to reveal a busy and seismically-battered urban scene beyond. Elsewhere nature reclaims a room like something out of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are (1963), the floor disconcertingly gives way to leaf litter, the ceiling opens on the sky, or a river rushes furiously through a hallway. The native environment reasserts itself: colonisation in reverse. The effect is surreal and dream-like, balanced by the illusion of objective reality created by photography. Each montage is an exercise in carefully judged composition.

Other images are more symbolic. The room where Keri Hulme wrote The Bone People (1984) finds nature encroaching on two fronts, both in real terms of invading plants, and when Zusters swaps the back wall with a view of the South Island beach where the novel plays out. In another picture, artist Bill Sutton’s studio (about to be knocked down for not very clear reasons), loses a wall to a view of Christchurch’s old Italianate Post Office in Cathedral Square – an allusion to the watercolours resulting from Sutton’s Grand Tour in Italy in 1973. Other images blend an abandoned Victorian house in the Red Zone with a seascape to create a Dalí-esque coastline – one of Odysseus’ ports of call or a place to hunt Snarks – haunted by the shimmering ghost lights of dust motes.

Essay by Andrew Paul Wood


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