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Exhibitions | Galleries | Studios | Street Art | Art in Public Places | Ōtautahi Christchurch and Canterbury

Sam Towse and Olivia Chamberlain- The streets are paved with water


Like the magic that happens on rainy city nights, where pavement puddles sparkle with many bright, changeful lights, the combined work of Sam Towse and Olivia Chamberlain glow in CoCA Toi Moroki’s Ō Papa gallery. Appropriately, the show’s title speaks to a material recontextualising of Ōtautahi’s cityscape in The streets are paved with water. The evocation of a city’s fluidity, refraction, and lifeblood frames the collaboration of these artists. Ecologically, the streets being paved with water raises questions of care for Ōtautahi’s high water table, the paths water would naturally carve and where they have been rerouted for the purposes of (sometimes) smooth, uninterrupted roads. This show suggests that the way to care for a city is by living in and loving it - as inhabitants like Chamberlain and Towse carve their own paths through the city, the artists delight in the sharing of spaces, discoveries, shortcuts and experiences of gathering. 

The geometries of city planning, technologies for densely populated areas, and the way these built environments transform and inform personal relationships are what unite the two artists’ work. Taking inspiration from walking Ōtautahi’s streets and in elaborating on routes of regular transit, Towse and Chamberlain also softly present a meditation on freedom of movement. The contained, mathematical practice of Chamberlain expands in neon beyond small linen canvases as if something prismatic has thrown a vibrant reflection onto the white walls. The repetition of the hexagons, triangles and diamonds could allude to street signage with their bold oranges and greens lit up by passing headlights. The movement achieved in repeated forms in these works, speak to the iterative nature of a city under repair.

A post-quake cityscape is incomplete without potholes, and Towse’s small concrete renderings of these are made joyful by the cave-ins painting. Instead of a charcoal asphalt broken to reveal pebbles and dirt, and summoning a threat to wheel alignments everywhere, these apertures are neon. Reminiscent of construction marks highlighting areas in need of repair or destruction, this series considers city markings more broadly.  Some stacked concrete bricks appear to have had pictures on them that have then been rearranged like sliding square puzzles. Hazard warnings and artful graffiti all at once, the strange flexibility of these concrete works express the way the city changes based on who you are, and where and how you spend time in it. 



Sam Towse and Olivia Chamberlain, The streets are paved with water
COCA Toi Moroki, 66 Gloucester Street

12 April – 12 May
IMAGE:  Olivia Chamberlain, Sequence 5, acrylic on canvas, oak frame 270 x 220mm, 2024

Sam Towse and Olivia Chamberlain- The streets are paved with water

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