Napkins

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Astounding for the way that it exploits the unease around its branching thematics- a haunted/haunting confluence of Mansfield’s geographic isolation and the tenuous domestic frame trying and failing to contain a landscape maybe malicious, maybe indifferent, certainly unknowable. There is enough to be considered about the work responding to a century of colonial arrogance with a shivering folk horror, but then we’re also tasked with considering the relationship between darkness and light and this is still only the foreground. Ralph Hotere’s early works in window frames come from a place of assertive dismay (reflective blacks would later take on immense spiritual significance), and McCahon’s blacks from this period are employed for primordial monoliths split from the sky through divine light. If McCahon’s light destroys black (negates black’s negation) from above, and Hotere’s is contained within shimmering blackness itself, what does it mean that Paul’s radiates outward, ever reaching? It’s a work perpetually in anticipation of some calamity, but there’s more to it than fear. Compared to Romero’s Night of the Living Dead with which Napkins shares its view, Paul’s excitement as the background tears at fabric, pulling it in, is palpable, suggesting a wilful forfeiture of this position and a surrender to the unknown.

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