1-26 October 2019 / Hastings Community Art Centre / By Michael Hawksworth
Arts Inc., on Russell St in Hastings, has annually hosted retrospective exhibitions of local notable artists to coincide with the Harcourts Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival. The Arts Inc. gallery footprint, especially if you add in the completely encircling mezzanine floor, presents a large space for any one artist to fill. Fane Flaws, Wellesley Binding and now Ricks Terstappen have done it with a seeming ease that’s testament to commitment, work ethic, and longevity in a business that, in Hawke’s Bay, can be pretty fickle.
Terstappen has managed over the years to weld together a practice that encompasses small interior-friendly work, large garden work, and huge public commission work; his recent public sculpture big-hitters include glittering flocks of estuary birds for Napier Airport, and circling seagulls for Anderson Park’s revamped playground. Metals, steel, iron (with occasional wood) are his media, and a kind of heavy-duty but light-hearted tinkering seems to characterise his process. Nothing he makes is ever weighty or ponderous or self-important, which is not only a lovely irony for a metal-worker, but a refreshing reminder that art is usually better if it avoids these things.
Even despite the cleaning up and formalising influence of the gallery’s architecture, I still get the feeling that I’m standing in the middle of some industrious crazy’s back yard, and that’s a good thing. But the sheer amount and array here is a little bewildering, and the show’s tossed-off, catch-all title, Sjroefkanellie (A Bit of Everything) is dead right. This show could have done with some serious pruning, particularly of the more bread-and-butter commercial lines, the flowery-home-décor-friendly stuff, as well as a lot of straight-up repetition and filler. Yes, retrospectives are in a sense catch-all’s, but not without judicious editing. It all feels like a demonstration mounted to accompany a possible hobbyist’s bible; title – Working with Metal: 101 Ideas for Fun and Profit.
What gives Terstappen’s approach his own thumbprint, so to speak, is his tendency towards a kind of 20th century modernist surrealism not unrelated, at times, to David Smith, or the Picasso that gave us a bull’s head ingeniously cobbled together from a bicycle seat and handle bars. Not that you could say that other artists influence Terstappen per se. It’s just that repurposing found forms and metal fittings is just what he does, and the forms that his works ultimately assume are, I suspect, more reflective of this Dutchman’s irrepressible pragmatism. I imagine him rummaging through clanking odds and ends in his workshop until some combination or process presents itself as amusing or attractive or useful. Then he puts it together without a second thought with almost Hendrix-like levels of effortlessness and feel for his materials. Then he stands back and tacks a title on it – either straight-forward or a bit hackneyed – and voila!
That’s what I imagine, anyway. If he’s been directly influenced by anything, it’s probably the mores of the local market and the ambient aesthetics of the local art scene that he has helped to define. There’s no large-theme conceptual drivers unifying his practice (if I can use such a highfalutin art-world term in this context), but there are certainly aesthetic ones. His best work is at once eccentric and formal, monumental and light, raw and refined, as well as unfailingly convivial and fun.
My favourite works in the show: Sphere 1, Trig, My DNA, Plane. My least favourite: The flowery stuff.
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