Review: Vincent Ward’s Inhale

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Still from Ward’s Inhale exhibition at Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland.

During the months of July and August the Gus Fisher Gallery is showing New Zealand-born Vincent Ward’s exhibition Inhale. This show consists of edited filmic clips taken from projects Ward has worked on over the years to create a moving series of ethereal projections. This is not a work to be viewed, but one rather to be felt and experienced.

It’s like entering another world. While adjusting to the dark gallery setting, the whimpering music rolls across the rooms in waves. Ward’s exciting use of audio-visual media creates a unique environment conjuring evocative feelings of suspense and mystery. Projected onto thin sheets of unkempt hanging canvas are fractured images in an underwater setting, swirling in and out of focus.

In order to fully absorb the work, or perhaps have yourself absorbed by it’s enveloping aura, you need to persist in searching for clear images. To draw all the threads together, this exhibition requires pensive contemplation.

Referencing the Classical theory of Humanism, Ward chooses a curvy, beautifully proportioned female nude who is shown through fragmented clips. She slowly tosses and turns in a clear sealed bag, prevented from escaping and swimming free. The woman’s face is shrouded in murky shadows and moody coloured highlights; we never see or understand her true identity. During the Renaissance, the Humanist School taught that physical beauty, idealised and perfect, was a reflection of a noble and virtuous person. The woman stays anonymous without individuality, as a metaphoric figure of mankind’s personal trials and tribulations and spiritual journeys. There is no doubt that Inhale attempts to capture this sense of an idealised beauty, even though it seems trapped and muddied by the weight of the world. Ward transforms the gallery into a place of sacred contemplation, using the human body as a vessel expressing thoughts and emotions that are rarely seen, but felt and understood, like a personal sense of faith and what it means to be human.

Taking his spectators on a spiritual journey through the depths of the deepest oceans, Ward shares with us those fleeting moments of personal transformation. Inhale delicately captures something fragile and untouchable, like a breath, providing his version of the essence of life and how he perhaps perceives the human predicament – delicate, challenging, drowning. The eerie soundtrack with no identifiable tune seems random and unsettling, but occurs in cyclic and repetitious rhythms. Together with the abstract and lyrical quality of the images, Ward offers his spectators hope and consolation through life’s seemingly arbitrary and transitory nature. In the smaller exhibition room of the gallery rests a clear and less pixelated image of a symbolic dove taking flight. Leaving his obsessive curiosity of water and submergence, Ward offers his spectators a brief moment of clarity, bringing home the fundamental message of this exhibition that despite how busy or heavy one’s life may seem, one must not forget to take a breath, hold on to the simple things in life, and come up for air.

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Gus Fisher Gallery transformed into a mysterious underworld

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