Eventual Efflorescence is a new series that depicts the banal realism of an everyday, suburban environment. These scenes are as recognisable and familiar as any one of the many new subdivisions continually springing up across the developed world. The images are difficult to locate within Aotearoa, or any specific region; not because van der Drift has erased specific cultural signifiers but because they were never there. The street signs point to a global anonymity: Barbados Key, Maldives Way, Seychelles Drive, Mauritius, Bermuda, Malibu, Monaco, Sorrento, Havana…. These names speak nothing of the low-lying and coastal settlement of Papamoa and the history of this vulnerable young town. Its newly formed palm-lined streets are gridded with storm water ditches that lay waiting.
The Papamoa hills once held a significant pā complex, which straddled the volcanic hill country and watched over fertile coastal dune plains and rich coastal fisheries.1 Today’s housing development sits on an ancient palimpsest of kāinga, kumara garden soils and swamp pā. The landscape of the past has experienced an erasure of understanding and collective memories have been wiped as clear as the landscape.2
van der Drift’s photographic portraits of Papamoa are eerily unpeopled. Her lens alights upon details in the environment, an attempt to locate and trace this culture’s values and desires and unfold the psyche of the new inhabitants to this place.
1 Gavin McLean, Pāpāmoa 2013 Ministry for Culture and Heritage
2 Concepts described by Park and Monbiot
Geoff Park, "Swamps Which Might Doubtless Easily be Drained: Swamp Drainage and its Impact on the Indigenous." Environmental Histories of New Zealand. Ed. Eric Pawson, and Tom Brooking, University of Otago Press, New ed. 2013, 177.
George Monbiot, Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life University of Chicago Press, 2014 Page 69
M Eventual Efflorescence - Kate van der Drift Raven About Art, 12 June 2016. https://ravenaboutart.wordpress.com/2016/06/12/eventual-efflorescence-kate-van-der-drift/
Eventual Efflorescence – Kate van der Drift
Gracing Room 2 of Sanderson Contemporary in Newmarket is Eventual Efflorescence, the latest exhibition by photographer Kate van der Drift. These new works depicts scenes of suburbia: front yards, stormwater drains, brick fences and more, and like previous images in her oeuvre, include vistas of water. They express van der Drift’s ongoing investigation into place; how our surrounds undergo significant transformation due to human settlement, population growth, and industrial and technological advancements.
Eerily still and somewhat unsettling, her photographs are dichotomous in nature: mundane yet captivating, dreamlike yet real, they are images of nature that are unnaturally beautiful, and I found myself drawn in but equally detached. The quietness of van der Drift’s works counter the fact that they are images of occupancy – they are about people and how we have modified our landscape to suit our way of living, but are void of a single person. I found this particularly evident in Stormwater Reserve (2016, Giclée photograph on matte paper, 1350 mm x 915 mm) an elegant suburban panorama beside a mirroring body of water, emptied of people. Furthermore, in Seychelles Drive (2016, Giclée photograph on matte paper, 850 mm x 850 mm) three perfectly manicured trees sit out front of a residence, an example of our fastidious shaping and control of our surroundings. I think it is this containment and neatening of nature that lends a sense of artifice to what we are seeing, and makes one wonder what lies beneath.
When initially seeing these photographs, I was at a loss as to where they were taken. With none of the usual clues (street signs, types of trees, licence plates) it was like a game of GeoGuessr. The sublime palm in Sorrento Key (2016, Giclée photograph on matte paper, 1110 mm x 1110 mm) suggests somewhere balmy and tropical, like Florida or Vanuatu. Thus I was surprised upon learning that these were photographs of Papamoa, the largest suburb in Tauranga, with a 16 km stretch of white beach. It is currently an area of rapid growth and development, the land being irreversibly transformed to keep up with the demand for housing. There is a universality to van der Drift’s images as they could be photographs of anywhere in the world. By capturing the banal, she highlights what is missing – how places rich in history and memory are seemingly buried, and make way for new and differing needs and wants. Her use of water as a motif for metamorphosis is fascinating, and the title of the exhibition points to the inevitability of such flowering and growth. Though tinged with melancholia, water can also represent renewal and regeneration, and there is hope that the cultures and histories of such places are never really forgotten.
Hauntingly superb, Eventual Efflorescence by Kate van der Drift is at Sanderson Contemporary, Newmarket until 26th June 2016 and is part of the Auckland Festival of Photography. There are a number of exceptional exhibitions to see, do check them out!