Teetering On The Edge

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The three shows on at The Vivian this month are as diverse as you can get. From goddesses to a genuine rock god, and with some lovely weirdness along the way, it’s a dreamy rollercoaster of concepts, colour – and political comment.

In keeping with our women’s issue we begin with Marian Maguire’s exhibition of Greek goddesses – duotoned lithographs in classical Greek style. They’re familiar deities: Athena, goddess of wisdom, Aphrodite, goddess of love, and others. But with titles such as ‘Artemis puts down her bow’, and ‘Aphrodite loses interest in flirting’, Marian asks whether, if placed in contemporary times, they would still be encouraging bloodshed or playing frivolous games of love. 

Of Athena, goddess of wisdom, patron of Athens and ruthless in defence of that empire, Marian wonders, “Surely she is tired of supporting power structures whose methods and motives are questionable? Does she not, at long last, want to cast aside her shield and spear…?” In creating these works Marian also asks herself how much she may be supporting a status quo that harms the environment and other people. 

Nicholas Ives is from Melbourne; this is his first major show at The Vivian. Gallery Director Scott Lawrie says, “Nic’s work uses references from art history and popular culture to create these compellingly familiar yet strange worlds for us to encounter. Underwater scenes. Dark narratives. Mysterious superheroes.” These dreamy, surreal paintings are disquieting but also fun. 

It’s hard to compete with the sheer star quality of the third artist at The Vivian this month. Serj Tankian is the Armenian-American lead singer of System of a Down, a heavy metal band which has sold over 40 million albums worldwide and inspired a global cult following. 

Serj and his wife and son are frequent visitors to our shores; Los Angeles is their other home. “I experienced an intuitive sense of belonging when we first played here in 2001,” says Serj. He composes both for the band and increasingly for film, often working with symphony orchestras; he produces documentaries and uses his high profile to bring public attention to war atrocities – particularly the shocking Armenian genocide from 1914-1923. 

Serj has also been making art since 2013. “I wanted to see what my music looked like,” he says. “Someone asked me how I’d describe my music and I said it was like ‘violent violins in a windstorm’. Violent violins – two things which no one would really put together. I like that – trying to put things together in different ways.”

This show does just that. Serj’s art comes from his music, so he’s made sure you can listen to it on headphones as you view it. It’s a multi-sensory angle which enriches the experience: gaze at a white violin stabbed bloodily with its own bow, or an abstract inspired by the NZ coastline while listening to the music which motivated it. Where does all Serj’s inspiration come from? “I believe that all creativity comes from collective consciousness – artists are merely skilled presenters. This has the advantage of removing any ego from my job, which is good!”

• Signed, limited-edition prints available for all artists

• A percentage of the profits from Serj’s work is shared between Auckland’s Starship hospital and Orran, an Armenian children’s charity

• Shows finish Sunday 17 March


ArtJunction Mag