Gold has fascinated humankind for eons, from Tutankhamen’s funeral mask to the classic “Midas touch”, Although man’s earliest interaction with gold is now lost to us, there is little doubt that this glittering metal enamoured us back then as it continues to do so now. All That Glitters uses works from the Sarjeant Gallery’s collection to explore this human fascination with gold in all its shining glory. Anchoring this exhibition is Gretchen Albrecht’s powerful painting, Nocturne (the spiral unwinds). Albrecht’s application of paint evokes magical images of watching fireworks explode in the night sky. These explosions of paint conjure fantastical stories of alchemists attempting to turn base metals into noble ones. The Spirit of Liberty by David Wilson sits alongside and together they paint a dreamlike scene plucked from the pages of a fairy-tale.
Glenn Burrell utilises an alchemical process in his execution of Kitchen Sink. Not quite turning lead to gold he does transform the everyday household sink into a dazzling benchtop complete with golden ants in search of sugar. Rick Rudd also plays on notions of transformation, this time turning the recognisable household jug into a signature “Rudd” form. The illuminating quality of golden light is captured brilliantly in Andrew Ross’s gold toned photographs. These images, printed on gold toned printing out paper, depict empty building interiors and each is caressed by a radiant glowing light.
Gold is often viewed as a symbol of wealth, perfection and opulence. A physical representation of a Golden Age where life appears better. Untitled (Greek girl holding a dove) alludes to this idea of gold as a symbol of prosperity. The girl stands in her flowing golden dress as everything around her radiates a certain golden tone. Nothing denotes wealth more than the extravagant, decorative nature of the ornate frame. In the early Renaissance, gilt frames were commissioned by noble men and women to display wealth and nobility. This lavish signal of affluence is seen most brilliantly in Santi Corsi’s depiction of the Saturn Room at Florence’s Pitti Palace. Here, the salon style display of ornately framed paintings are warmed by the golden glow emanating from the richly decorated walls and ceiling. The Sarjeant has over 150 paintings mounted in ornate frames, some of which are examples of the Gallery’s earliest acquisitions.
The collection store is literally a goldmine. All That Glitters gives us a taste of this collection which, over the past 17 months, has been moved in its entirety from the heritage building at Queen’s Park to its temporary home here at Sarjeant on the Quay.
Te Maari Barham
Collection Transition Assistant