Contemporary New Zealand artist Fiona Connor’s art work Can do academy #3, 2004, is currently on display as part of Splash! Four Contemporary New Zealand Paintings up in Ngā Toi | Arts Te Papa on Level 5 at Te Papa.
I recently spoke to Fiona on the phone from her home in the Miracle Mile district of Los Angeles and asked her about this work and her 2014 Can Do Academy exhibition in Auckland.
Fiona Connor: “I think of painting as like a trace of a performance or like a document of a series of marks. The exhibition Can Do Academy, in general, was based on a compendium of marks that I saw in used spaces, like abandoned day-cares, or art schools, printing shops … out of that I sampled certain elements and inserted them into the gallery space.
Can do academy #3 is generally all from an abandoned day-care, which is round the corner from my apartment in Miracle Mile. And that was actually the starting point for the body of work. I was walking by the shop front on the street and I saw this sink and I thought, ‘What an exciting premise for a show.’ I guess it was this, like, incidental painting: students and teachers washing out brushes with a too-high-pressure spout, causing the paint to splash up on the wall, and then repeated attempts at trying and clean it – reactivating the paint.
I found an equivalent sink, screen-printed the stickers – in that process there is certain things that go on. There is a play with value, taking things from a mass-produced format of web sticker production to more of a silk-screen – or realm of art production. Through the representation, it offers a new way of looking at it.
We are all really familiar with reading the marks, or the traces of the body when it uses a space. And we’re used to making a mess and cleaning it up, and generally denying, or trying to rub out, those sort of things. So, seeing those kind of marks of use in a more formal way begs the question of what constitutes a meaningful or valuable mark, and the hierarchies of who can make those marks.”
Sarah Farrar, Senior Curator Art