When we were developing the Collecting Contemporary exhibition, I unconsciously developed a secret soundtrack – a mix-tape, if you like – of music that came to mind as I thought about the various works in the show. It was Jason Greig who, quite unknowingly, got me started on this track.
In addition to being a wonderfully talented contemporary printmaker, Jason is also a musician and is part of the rock metal band Into the Void, along with fellow New Zealand artist Ronnie van Hout.
Greig’s works contain a bewildering amalgam of literary, musical, and historical references and these are often alluded to in his titles. One work that appears in Collecting Contemporary is a terrific monoprint that he has called Seven years of labour for the instruments of time, 2003.
The title of this work is taken from a song by the Blue Öyster Cult, a 1980s prog rock band. The rock opera is called ‘Imaginos’ and it was released in 1988.
For the eagle-eyed among you, yes, this work featured in Jason’s survey exhibition The Devil Made Me Do It, some years back at the Christchurch Art Gallery.
Thinking about other works by Greig in Te Papa’s collection, other songs come to mind. Take The Phaedra Chain III, 2010, for example.
While Greig might be referring to the character of Phaedra in Greek mythology, he could as likely be referring to the subject of Lee Hazlewood’s ‘Some Velvet Morning’, originally released in 1968. Personally, the work makes me think of This Mortal Coil’s ‘Song to the Siren’ from 1983.
On the floating, shapeless oceans
I did all my best to smile
til your singing eyes and fingers
drew me loving into your eyes.
And you sang ‘Sail to me, sail to me;
Let me enfold you.’
Here I am, here I am waiting to hold you.
Did I dream you dreamed about me?
Were you here when I was full sail?
Now my foolish boat is leaning, broken love lost on your rocks.
For you sang, ‘Touch me not, touch me not, come back tomorrow.’
Oh my heart, oh my heart shies from the sorrow.
I’m as puzzled as a newborn child.
I’m as riddled as the tide.
Should I stand amid the breakers?
Or shall I lie with death my bride?
Hear me sing: ‘Swim to me, swim to me, let me enfold you.’
‘Here I am. Here I am, waiting to hold you.’
The other work by Jason Greig in Collecting Contemporary is Gideon, 2010.
This work brings to mind Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1890 and, in some ways, also Major-General Horatio Gordon Robley’s contentious collecting of Māori moko mokai. For some reason, however, I have yet to settle on my internal soundtrack selection for this work. Pondering whether Julee Cruise’s ‘Into the Night’ from 1989 might fit the bill…
Curator of Contemporary Art