Happiness is by its very nature ephemeral. Sometimes it is a state that we might only identify in hindsight. Increasingly there is an expectation that we should be happy all the time (fuelled by the self help movement and proliferation of wellness apps), putting further pressure and expectation on these temporal moments. Choose Happiness is a group exhibition of work by emerging, mid-career and established artists from Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand that acknowledges happiness as a transient state, one only truly understood through experiencing its opposite.
For some, joy comes through the very act of making - in the bright brushstrokes of Angela Brennan’s ebullient canvases or in the urgent, painterly scribbles of Salome Tanuvasa, enacted amidst the flurry of everyday family life. For others, happiness is tied to place - in the radiant, unmediated pleasure of painting on Country evidenced in the landscapes of Gwenneth Blitner or in the mosh pit of a rock concert filmed in slow motion by Angelica Mesiti (a sight made all the more poignant in the age of social distancing). Choose Happiness shifts between these exaltations of joy and more darkly humorous perspectives - Yvonne Todd photographs prim young models with forced smiles, Grant Stevens creates a self help video on steroids, complete with new age soundtrack and Matthew Harris injects his lurid, pop coloured paintings with unhinged scenes of depravity.
Choose Happiness encourages us to be kind to ourselves too, by including works that convey strength in vulnerability. Natasha Matila-Smith reveals interior states; particularly the desire to love and be loved; Jemi Gale visualises wishful futures impacted by haunted pasts; Deme Te Atawhai Scott acknowledges the passage of time and the complex love of family and Noriko Nakamura presents unconventional portraits of motherhood focusing on motherhood’s perils and pleasures.
Happiness is complicated. From aspirations and longing to joy and euphoria, Choose Happiness explores the realities of happiness and its many spectrums.
Exhibiting artists: Gwenneth Blitner, Angela Brennan, Jemi Gale, Matthew Harris, Natasha Matila-Smith, Angelica Mesiti, Deme Te Atawhai Scott, Noriko Nakamura, Grant Stevens, Salome Tanuvasa and Yvonne Todd.
Featuring 2 x works:
I’m Having Such a Nice Time, I Don’t Wanna Ruin It 2021
5 parts, 122 x 244 cm each
Courtesy the artist
Matila-Smith sees the bedroom as a performative space. On it, she presents intimate, personal snapshots of her face and body in extreme close up, similar in style to the images found on these banners. A companion piece to the artist’s moving image portrait 7 minutes in Heaven on MAMA’s outdoor screen, I’m Having Such a Nice Time, I Don’t Wanna Ruin It further exploits the notions of intimacy and romance attached to this most personal of spaces. In Matila-Smith’s work the line between autobiography and performance is blurred - her revelations are made to be seen by others. By presenting tender portraits and interior thoughts she encourages us to see strength in vulnerability.
7 Minutes in Heaven 2021
Courtesy the artist
Much of Matila-Smith’s work happens in the bedroom, in bed. She utilises this intimate space to challenge the boundaries of public and private. In exhibiting the personal and private in public spaces like MAMA’s outdoor screen, the artist addresses wider societal fears of exposing oneself, particularly in relation to the anxieties and existential crises associated with our capacity as romantic partners. This work is accompanied by a suite of corresponding banners installed in MAMA’s atrium. In them, the artist’s body is fragmented into close up ‘film stills’ accompanied by stream of consciousness texts musing on love and being loved