Oliver Stretton-Pow’s Make Waves exhibition, an untitled piece of carved obsidian.

Newly minted Surfdale art space Gallery Anomalous is having its second show in March with the opening of Oliver Stretton-Pow’s exhibition entitled Make Waves. The exhibition will showcase a wide-ranging suite of sculptural works by Stretton-Pow that seek to provoke discussion around the appropriation of both cultural artefacts and natural resources by imperial “super-powers”. 

Many of the works are carved in obsidian, a material that Stretton-Pow was given access to decades ago from a Northland source. This naturally occurring volcanic glass is a fragile material, but in Stretton-Pow’s hands it has been worked meticulously into a variety of objects in familiar form, but distorted purpose. The use of glass, for example, for an axe-head, a smoking pipe or a drinking flask, are purely impractical but it is the context in which we find these objects either hidden inside hand-made books or featured in bespoke museum cabinets that makes us question their meaning and circulation across space and time. Many of these works are displayed in a series of simulated museum-style cabinets fashioned from native timber that extend the metaphor of the colonial appropriation of indigenous artefacts by museums in far-away places. The ordering and encasing of archaeological and historical artefacts superimposes one cultural sensibility onto another by creating purely observational museum pieces from what were once intrinsically tactile and functional objects. • Michelle Barber is the owner/operator of Artisphere.co.nz and can be reached for this column at waihekeartscolumn@gmail.com

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