Jack Trolove: The body remembers

These paintings are a story of physicality or of finding. Using the body's scaffolding as a starting point to push into abstraction, to break the space between body and world, or skin and atmosphere, to undo the myth that things are separate. Jack is interested in how our bodies, like land, hold memories, how land, like skin across bones, holds onto the unfinished conversations of our ancestors, and how that shapes the images we make and how we see.

  • Opening Date: Tuesday, 28 April 2015
  • Closing Date: Sunday, 17 May 2015
  • Opening Time: Tues to Fri 11-6pm, Sat 11-4pm

There's an episode of Louie (Season 3, Ep 5) where Parker Posey shows off what a gift she is to our world. Where she sits on the rooftop ledge of a very tall building admonishing Louie for his nerves, explaining: "That's why you're afraid.… Because a tiny part of you wants to jump, because it would be so easy. But I don't want to jump. So I'm not afraid."

This is New York, a particular favourite of modern story telling because its inhabitants are imagined as residing in some kind of harmony with their environment-fitting in, emplaced, in place; part of a conceptual and compositional frame of the city's articulation. The awkwardness of distinction doesn't plague them.

At one point, Posey's character (Liz) tells Louie that she loves to pine for North Dakota but doesn't want to exhaust that pleasure by actually going there. Yes, New Yorkers know that any residence in and of a natural landscape is no credible experience of the Western subject, is best reserved for National Geographic daydreams, beer advertisements and the like.

An unattached, floating fragment of something far greater, Liz inhabits imprecise, mercurial spaces across worlds both discursive and physical.

With gushing and irrepressible gall she has Louie squeeze into a ball gown in the confined changing room of a vintage clothing store.

She's an inexhaustible liar with a flair for an affecting sincerity.

While we sit at home, concerned about her mental health, she repeatedly unravels Louie's habitual frames of understanding, poking at them, making them ripple.

The episode finds stable ground when she takes him to a deli to do what all New Yorkers do-to annihilate the distance between their own bodies and the world's, to enjoy a communion that is all form, pure form, a ritual absolved of all but its most fundamental symbolism: confirming, that is, the wrongness of the discrete borderlines that we depend on to survive-most particularly the one represented by our skin.

Yet Liz, this habitual transgressor, also affirms the need to protect her skin's integrity when she declines the impulse to fall from the rooftop. She paints this as a good thing. But as she does so, her face is consumed by a dark, unreachable melancholy, and the episode ends.


The desire to live inside the spaces between meaning-making is some kind of defining condition of the modern. It's the place you find reading Morrison or Faulkner, where conscious attention to narrative becomes a matter of willed emergence from a dream. It is our passion, and it is our lament: it is our drive towards abstraction and purity; our decadent rebellion against a concurrent devotion to articles of precision and exchange.

And it is that desire that Trolove is dealing in across these paintings, describing a fraught contemplation over the impulse to abstraction-and a reversing back from the same (to see what might emerge in the unwrinkling). This tactile and formal struggle is acutely played out through the language of the portrait, which would generally seem to rely on an axiomatic conformity to edges and backgrounds and hierarchies of presence.

A million miles from New York, in a place where discomfort in one's own skin is both a mark of belonging and a signature of authenticity, Trolove's paintings dare to tempt us out of ourselves.

I imagine an unreasonably long hallway, grand, lined with these paintings-a tide of them, abandoning the distinctions among their faces, washing a visitor clean, immersing them in their flow.

Creon Upton

'Creon Upton is a lawyer living in Auckland who enjoys writing about art and other things when he gets a chance.'

Jack Trolove is an Auckland based visual artist. He holds an MFA with distinction from Massey University, and has work held in private and public collections across New Zealand, Australia and Europe. Jack's work currently explores the relationships between embodiment and liminal spaces such as intergenerational memory and other states of in-between-ness. He approaches figurative work as a kind of re-membering.




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