Critics’ Picks

View of “Spatial Constructions,” 2013.


John Panting

Adam Art Gallery
Gate 3, Kelburn Parade Victoria University of Wellington
October 11 - December 20

When the London-based New Zealand artist John Panting tragically died in a motorcycle accident in 1974 at the age of thirty-four, he left behind a vast number of sculptures in a variety of styles and materials that qualify him as an obsessive and experimental creator. His survey in Wellington titled “Spatial Constructions” brings together three abstract human-scale sculptures and seven smaller works in steel and aluminum—all made between 1972 and 1974—that evince his late interest in the nature of spatial relationships. 6.08 (Untitled VIII), 1973–74, was created by assembling red oxidized steel bars vertically and diagonally with I-beams and Z-shaped steel cross-sections of different weights that together serve to outline empty space, underlining dimensional forms over matter. Despite the tension and randomness, this anomalous, multifaced geometric shape results in a complex and heavy but well-balanced structure.

A more discrete result can be found in 5.07 (Untitled III), 1972–73, where the juxtaposition of differently sized, long neutral-gray beams creates volume through basic formations of crosses and triangles, elegantly demarking and creating an open-form stable architectural space. Alongside the large sculptures, the seven small works, arranged on white plinths, appear as fragile and studious three-dimensional drawings that test new sculptural possibilities. According to the exhibition curator Sam Cornish, “more prosaically their size means that they were commercially viable.” Yet such sketches, besides showing how scale and qualities of material can explicitly determine perceptual configurations and interpretations, result in an exploration of line as an illusionistic constructor. All works naturally push the viewer to surround the structures, offering dynamic configurations that paradoxically reveal static forms as kinetic, unexpected, and unimaginable new spaces.