Opening Friday July 28
Unreal Estate brings past and current drawings by Otepoti-based artist Philip Madill, which reimagines the archival image in an alternative reality. The detailed rendering of the drawing contrasted with the visual absurdity of the subject intends to question the reliability of the photographic image and its representation of the past in the digital age.
"Unreal Estate”, Philip Madill
The definition of the absurd implies a lack of meaning, a contradiction, a paradox, and the sense that there is no logical connection between given things, inviting us to look at them differently. In graphite, Madill has re-worked the tensions of this notion into documented moments from the 19th century. The 1889 New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition and the Pink and White Terraces (Te Tarata and Te Otukapuarangi) are prominent examples.
Madill has had a long-standing interest in historical ephemera and photography. It generates content for imaginatively composite images that disrupt straightforward interpretations of documented histories. In this way, the drawings speak and speak again; on more than one occasion I experienced a delayed reaction to a strange element after an initial failure to notice it.
In a way, the absurd posits that it is not possible for us to understand reality. These works then question our capacity to understand history: what actually occurred at the time and what can only be imagined.
Madill plays deliberately with intention and outcome, subjectivity and objectivity, and between the real and the imagined. There appears to be an intuitive freedom in the process of making. The drawings then have space to be themselves, and they have a sense of humour.
Joanna Osborne, Otago Daily Times, August 3, 2023