Orbital

Artists: Melanie Arnold, Emma Paton, Monique Lacey, Laura Jer, James Gibson,

Clara Wells, Kelly Malone, Hannah Potbury, Felixe Laing, Yvonne Shaw, Leigh Munro, Lucy Gill, Grace Bader, Yasmina Gillies, Karen Sewell, Divyaa Kumar, live performace by Dance Plant Collective and live music by Lily Jackson, Keith (The band) & Funk Ferret. 

On 28th July 2018, a bright new star streaked across the skies of Ponsonby. Landing at the end of a driveway between a vast green garden and a sprawling historical homestead; Comet Project Space with its inaugural show, Orbital, launches Auckland’s creative communities into a new age of collaboration, community, and innovation.

A labour of love developed by three emerging creative professionals; Alicia Taylor, Bobbie Gray, and Zara Garlick, Comet provides both traditional and non traditional spaces for the exploration of creativity in all forms. A cleverly refurbished garage at the heart of the space offers a traditional ‘white cube’ gallery, but this is not the stark, exclusive, contemporary art gallery we have all come to fear, with sprawling outdoor spaces enticing innovation and experimentation.

Orbital, the first of many ‘pop up’ style shows to come to Comet Project Space, utilised every aspect of its environment. Offering an eclectic collection of sculpture, textile, and performance alongside more traditional fine art media, Orbital certainly represented the incredible scope of talent available within the continually expanding creative communities of Auckland.

Despite what could have been an overwhelming range of works included in the show, a highly refined sense of cohesion; a complex, yet strong theme, was developed and explored throughout the space. From the intimately beautiful Viva Glam III by Felixe Laing, a delicate lipstick monoprint on a silk dressing gown, to Melanie Arnold’s Suspended State, a found concrete, steel, and rebar sculpture, the pieces included within Orbital explored not only the creative energies around the physical gallery, but also the inherent energies, forces, and physicality of the pieces themselves. James Gibson’s Staged Abstract (2) deftly explored the concept of translating media into new materials, questioning what can be gained or lost in translation when presenting sculptural forms on a 2D surface; while Kelly Malone’s Writers Block explores the influence of creative energy on the physical object, and how these energies can result in different manifestations, whether that be a solid cube, or a thousand fluttering scraps of paper. Beautifully curated and presented on clean white walls and plinths, these pieces gravitated towards one another, supporting and elevating the ideas of their creators. The lack of traditional wall labels, however, at times created confusion and difficulty in identifying the works, and would definitely contribute to further appreciation of the concepts and ideas developed in future shows.

As an inclusive and experimental space, however, Comet Project Space did not just offer a traditional, high minded art experience. Throughout the day, people were welcomed into Orbital with a true sense of manaakitanga, encouraged to enjoy home-made catering and a free specially crafted cocktail from the pop up bar while enjoying live music, poetry, and dance performances by Lily Jackson, Keith, Funk Ferret, Divyaa Kumar, and the Dance Plant Collective. Karen Sewell’s whimsical Paradise Life: Fantasy Island served a dual purpose, simultaneously transporting you into unrestrained fascination and optimism, while providing a quiet, comfortable seating area. Yasmina Gillies’ Forage – Herbal Concoction ­similarly refreshed the mind, body, and spirit, offering a range of tea and bread made from ingredients found in the garden of Comet itself. Finally, all visitors were encouraged to contribute to the space themselves by drawing a comet on a wall at the back of the garden, which soon became an explosion of shape and movement, and further reinforced the idea that creativity exists all around us.

It is precisely this energy, this culture of experimentation and exploration, that pulled people of every age, gender, and interest in on a cold Saturday afternoon. Orbital offered not only a traditional art gallery experience, although on a micro scale, but offered something new, and incredibly enticing- community. Here we see the beginnings of something powerful, an idea drawing together thought and action, revealed to the wider community in an explosion of the senses. With time, and this continued spirit of innovation and creativity, Comet Project Space is sure to become an important fixture in the galaxy of Auckland’s art scene.

Review by Erna Tidy

Curated by Bobbie Gray, Alicia Taylor & Zara Garlic. 

Photos by Zara Garlic.