With Certain Exceptions takes its name from a written fragment contained within section 3 of the Maruia Declaration petition signed by over 300,000 conservation activists in New Zealand in 1977. The petition was submitted to parliament in an attempt to protect remaining indigenous forests from commercial forestry. It is recognised as an historic milestone for New Zealand’s conservation movement.
Section 3 of the petition states;
‘The logging of virgin forests (with certain exceptions) should be phased out by 1978’.
With certain exceptions? How does one respond to such an inclusion?
It declares something that is unwritten, that cannot be seen, that lacks definition. It undermines, reading like a space between that needs not be defined, a way out, a loophole, a black hole. Here only part of the picture is painted and we are left to speculate in order to respond.
With narrative aside, the making of this work is a process based response to my interpretation of this written fragment. The method of making is one of omission and erasure - something I would describe as reverse masking, whereby parts of a previously built figure are isolated through masking out in a blind working process to create Ma¹ - the gap between structural parts. As painted figure is partially reclaimed by black painted ground traces of the sublayer figure remain. The building of image through this process becomes speculative as the process of making is blind, you don’t know what you’ve got until the masking is removed. It works on defining what is not there (the exceptions) by canceling out what is.
I would hope when standing in front of these works that the viewer is left to interpret and speculate in order to attempt to restore the image by examining form and non-form simultaneously. What did the image look like before this erasure took place? Traces remain.
The black polished timber support grounds signs and symbols that form the structural elements in this work. Preserved native Podocarp specimens² collated by early colonial botanists have been digitized, deformed and reconstructed, giving them a new life.
A question arises; How does one view the dead tree³ as a sign in a contemporary context, both in a time of exponential ecological change and given its rich historic usage and citation in New Zealand art?
Forest track markers direct with ambiguity through foliage fragments to broken waterfalls inspired by time-lapse photography. Masking tape appears to hold everything in place, flattening the picture on a horizontal field. Etching erases ground to figure forth by exposing the supports materiality, peeling back the layers of paint to reveal what is underneath, an indexical trace of the works construction.
Matt Moriarty 2017.
1. Ma; A consciousness of place, not in the sense of an enclosed three-dimensional entity, but rather the simultaneous awareness of form and non-form deriving from an intensification of vision. Wikipedia.
2. Banks and Solander Collection, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongawera Online Archives.
3. The term dead tree, as a sign or citation, as discussed in The Invention of New Zealand, Art and National Identity 1930 - 1970, Francis Pound.