Large anagrams hang on tapa cloths (softened bark) at NTU CCA’s exhibit The Oceanic. Made by Australian born artist Newell Harry, these large scale words take up the entire wall and surely don’t go unnoticed. They were inspired by word games often which include some aspect of anagrams or wordplay; the artist himself liken these words to “dumbed down poems”.
From artists to Star Wars and even Japanese (GOYA, DALI, YODA, DESU) the words cover a lot of ground. Limiting himself to four letters, he wanted to touch on a wide variety of subject matter nevertheless. His interests in culture, religion and the language do shine through his works the more you dig into them. In the words chosen, some can be read differently or mean different things depending on how the word is read. This is Newell’s way of subverting meaning through the use of anagrams.
Additionally, the tapa cloth is used as a form of currency in the South Pacific and is exchanged in various occasions in the culture. He wanted to utilize the material out of it’s usual cultural context as a means of exploration with the medium.
His artworks elsewhere, are on occasion exhibiting with accompanying items that are usually cobbled together anonymously with miscellaneous items, often given to him or acquired cheaply though auction or by chance.
While this wasn’t entirely the case at NTU CCA, i couldn’t help but draw parallels between those previous exhibitions accompaniments with the one we saw on site of The Oceanic. Right in front of Newell Harry’s work, was the lovely and intricate costumes by Laura Anderson Barbata (Costumes seen below).
Unlike the casually placed items of Newell’s other exhibits, these costumes, made for the performance Ocean Calling, are much more intricate and are reminiscent of tribal ritual garb and ancient Japanese straw raincoats. But the connections between the two are more likely to be a happy coincidence in my mind.
I thought the pieces were quite visually stunning, especially the costumes. It was also quite interesting to find out that tapa cloth was used as currency, which made me ponder about swapping the tapa cloth banners for that of other worldwide currency, no doubt there’d be more of a stir as is the nature of big money. My ruminations continue to percolate on that note (ha!), but fortunately this post has an end,