Elizabeth Thomson’s exhibition, Subliminal 1., features a series of mesmerising abstract works that dissolve boundaries and integrate the mediums of painting, sculpture, and photography. The works in this exhibition are reinforced by technical virtuosity – all involve complex methods of production. The physical and illusory elements carefully shape and challenge our perceptions – seeming to hover transcendentally in the liminal space between memory and oblivion. It is an installation that invites the viewer into a pure moment in time. Thomson’s intriguing use of materials, optically indeterminate and intangible surfaces emerge, to suggest depths and declivities.
The surfaces are matt and enigmatic with the inventive use of electrostatic flocking. Thomson has crafted an exquisite series of colourless, dreamlike wildernesses that stretch and expand before the viewer, transporting them into a space that is filled with infinite possibility. The white artworks reference three million year old reefs of sedimentary rock formations on the Mahia Peninsula near Wairoa on the North Island’s East Coast. While the underpinning of some of the works is to be found in a specific New Zealand locale, the compositions are transformed through memory and materiality into other physical, emotional and psychological territories.
The quiet, enveloping calm of the white works are contrasted with those executed in pale blues and vibrant greens. Like their white counterparts, these too are anchored in a physical space that has been translated through the ambiguous and associative qualities of memory and sensation. The luminous green works recall sites of childhood exploration and imaginings: the forested expanse of the Waitakere ranges in Auckland’s West, which translates evocatively to the “fringe of heaven”. The shimmering light blue works pay tribute to French Bay in Titirangi where as a child Thomson spent whole days submerged in the beach environ of hot sun, prickly sand, salty air, and the shallow tidal movements of the Manukau Harbour. The past, present, and future are experienced simultaneously. The structural integrity and immaculate surface finish results in a sense of fluidity and elusiveness as the familiar blurs into an abstract patterning that is both rhythmic and meditative.
One of New Zealand’s foremost artists, Thomson has a significant exhibition history, with a major survey My Hi Fi My Sci Fi that was shown and then toured nationally by Wellington City Gallery 2006-2008. She was one of nine artists taking part in iterations of Kermadec exhibitions, subsequent to their voyage in 2011, with works shown in major venues around NZ, Tonga, Easter Island (Rapa Nui), Santiago, Chile and the Tjibaou Cultural Centre, New Caledonia. An important large-scale immersive/sculptural installation, Invitation to Openness – Substantive and Transitive States, of 500 white, flocked bronze moths inhabited the Dowse Art Museum, Wellington in 2014. The exhibition has since toured to Tauranga Art Gallery in 2015. It is currently on view at the Waikato Museum and will be installed at the Whangarei Art Museum in September 2016.