Dane Mitchell at City Gallery Wellington

August 31, 2017

Dane Mitchell, installation view,  Occulture: The Dark Arts , City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand, 2017

Dane Mitchell, installation view, Occulture: The Dark Arts, City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand, 2017

Dane Mitchell is featured in the exhibition Occulture: The Dark Arts at City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand. The exhibition explores contemporary art’s role in the process of occultation (a term first used by Andre Breton in his 1930 Surrealist Manifesto), bringing together New Zealand and international artists who push the symbolic, formal and material languages of esoteric or occult traditions into new forms.

Australian artist Mikala Dwyer casts a spell in the form of a wall painting. Dane Mitchell’s silk banners are printed with hand gestures that activate magical thinking and open up possibilities for astral perception. The charcoal Liquidation Maps of Taiwanese artist Yin-Ju Chen link atrocities in Asia to specific astrological permutations. Fiona Pardington presents an altar in both photographic and sculptural form, while Kenneth Anger’s Lucifer Rising screens in the auditorium. These artists all invoke magical thinking and ritual to charge the gallery space with invisible energies and forces. 

These and other contemporary artists—working across drawing, painting, sculpture, bookmaking, film, sound, printmaking, photography — are brought into conversation with key historical figures of the occult tradition. At the heart of the exhibition is a suite of ‘nightmare paintings’ by English occultist, ceremonial magician and poet Aleister Crowley. His paintings were made in Sicily in the early 1920s, as he was establishing his Abbey of Thelema. They were part of his attempt to integrate art into his magical theory. Crowley’s connected belief in the book as a ‘talismanic object’ was the spur for FULGUR to start publishing contemporary esoteric books—a selection of which are included in the exhibition. The trance-induced work of Crowley’s Antipodean devotee Rosaleen Norton also features prominently. Born ‘during a thunderstorm’ in Dunedin in 1917, she moved to Sydney, where she became known as ‘the Witch of Kings Cross’ and was persecuted for her transgressive behaviour and for her mystical art works summoning pagan entities. This is the first time either Crowley or Norton have been exhibited in New Zealand.

Exhibiting artists include Kenneth Anger (US), Leo Bensemann (NZ), Yin-Ju Chen (TAIWAN), Eleanor Cooper (NZ), Aleister Crowley (UK), Simon Cuming (NZ), Mikala Dwyer (AUS), FULGUR (UK), Henry Fuseli (SUI), Jason Greig (NZ), Dane Mitchell (NZ), Rosaleen Norton (NZ/AUS), Tony Oursler (US), Fiona Pardington (NZ), Lorene Taurerewa (NZ), Thomson & Craighead (UK), and Brendon Wilkinson (NZ).

Occulture: The Dark Arts is on view from August 11 - November 19, 2017. The exhibition will also include a series of public programs bringing in other practitioners of occulture from music, performance and film.