"Solid State" brings together a selection of recent additions to the Victoria University of Wellington Art Collection by six contemporary New Zealand artists. Presenting works by Phil Dadson, Fiona Connor, Richard Frater, Simon Ingram, Daniel Malone and Dane Mitchell, "Solid State" explores research based approaches to art making that delve into fields of knowledge such as chemistry, physics, electronics and environmental sustainability. It demonstrates how the art collection seeks to build meaningful connections to other disciplines in the university context.
In the physical sciences there are four states of matter: solid, liquid, gas and plasma. When something is in a ‘solid state’ its molecules are tightly packed together; it can hold its shape and has a definite volume. All the works in this exhibition can be described as solids because they take a material form, whether this is a painted surface, a brass ring, framed image, projector, TV screen, iPad, sheet of paper, or glass brick. However, each work also results from, refers to, or instantiates other less tangible states. Dane Mitchell’s brass rings are solid representations of the molecular structure of water; Simon Ingram’s abstract paintings were made by a machine programmed to react to low-frequency radio signals; and Philip Dadson’s videos materialise sound by snagging Antarctic wind in wires and fabric exposed to the elements on the ice. Even more complex are works by Richard Frater, who has cast a ring out of the silver extracted from 16mm film, that is then reproduced through the exposure to light of a wet plate coated with silver nitrate, and Daniel Malone, who cast a glass brick by melting and reforming the shards of a window he broke with a clay version of the same object. While Fiona Connor compiles data about the Adam Art Gallery’s building in order to draw attention to the energy it consumes.
Though highly selective, these works are indicative of the means by which artists today explore the world around them. Finding form for the complexity of material existence and embedding objects and images with encoded histories through transformational processes, their art making can be thought of as another mode of research, a kind of material thinking that is at home in the university.