The archaeology of the exhibition Lucken’s Margin traverses territory that begins with a stack of 11 mountain tea-bowls, complete with thumbprint wad from the Heian Dynasty (9-11th century), given to O’Connor in 1982 by the great Japanese artist Ryoji Koie (d. 2020); then proceeds to a horse-bone butter knife, made by a German prisoner of World War Ⅱ who was a pacifist and opposed to the Nazi regime.
Along the way O’Connor honours plain everyday things that are imbued with crucial personal narratives and conceptual layering. These stratified stories define his primary subjects, such as, parenthood, conservation of bird species, hospitality, the mystery of time passing, society’s subcultures, burning apples, and even celebrates the importance of a particular pencil sharpener from the world’s oldest art-supplies shop in Paris.
Three lost porcelain ceramic pieces made in 1981 make guest appearances, in duets with sculptural partners produced during Denis O’Connor’s recent artist residency at Sarjeant Art Gallery, Whanganui. Two of these sculptures explore language, native tongue and speechlessness. We also meet some survivors from the mighty Whanganui River, and get advice on how to improve sleep by one of the most eminent poets of our time.
The exhibition includes a collaboration with Texas-based New Zealand artist Kate Newby.