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Vanessa Jack @ The Chiller
September 1997

Vanessa Jack's installation was the final in the recent CASKO series at The Chiller in High Street and was something of a revelation. A revelation of both the mysterious inner room - The Chiller itself - and of the artist's way of seeing through the device of photography.

In her previous two Christchurch installations; meanwhile at the School of Fine Arts Gallery earlier this year, and squint in the abandoned Hop Yick Cheong building in 1996, Jack articulated the installation spaces through considered placement of photographs. In squint images were derived from the merchandise previously available in the Hop Yick Cheong shop. These were located back in the deserted building, pale apparitions which resonated in the emptiness of the place, evoking its history and its imminent destruction, views from the fleeting present into the past. meanwhile , a desolate, grey suburban landscape made large and demanding the viewer's attention by means of a commercial scale light box, confronted the mediation of imagery which takes place in the context of a formal gallery.

Jack has established a thoughtful exploration of the ways in which the view of one location from another is highly charged by conditions such as time, institutional context, and the devices of presentation. The CASKO work was very much a continuation, and certainly a progression, of Jack's on-going investigation. The views were again from a particular place. This time there were no recorded images. The Chiller room, stripped of its stainless steel cladding, had become the camera into which the viewer stepped. The views were panorama shaped slots clearly cut straight through three thick insulated walls into two adjacent rooms and one to a yard outside. Where the previously windowless, oppressive cell had very much turned the viewer's gaze inwards there were now various views through and beyond. Both the room itself and the adjacent spaces were dramatically altered. Daylight filtering in from outside seemed distinctly odd and the internal views alternately dissapointing and uncomfortably voyeuristic. The alteration, though simple enough, was both deft and baffling.

The continuity of this work with the previous two was striking, but for someone experiencing this installation without that context there could not have been the same completeness. As a single separate work however it was certainly strong enough to stand alone.

An image of the unaltered chiller was used on the invitation for this work. That was the only clue to the major transformation which had taken place for anyone visiting the venue for the first time. Perhaps there might have been more evidence of the previous appearance so that the full resonance of the artist's intervention could be better appreciated.

Vanessa Jack has produced intelligent and considered work which promises even better things to come if she can attract the support necessary to sustain her practice in increasingly difficult times for many contemporary artists. David Hatcher's CASKO series has shown what one person's determination and hard work can achieve without subsidy or institutional support. Emerging artists in Christchurch have had their own venue at The High Street Project space but as that organisation becomes more and more grant dependent they have had to compete for the use of the venue with more established artists on the contemporary art space circuit. CASKO has helped considerably to maintain a balance and an independent curatorial view free from the heavy guiding hand of Creative NZ.

Julian Bowron
13 October 1997