Bad Medicine
Bartley Nees Gallery, Wellington
5 - 30 June 2001

My new series of paintings entitled Bad Medicine is thematically related to my Quarantine exhibition which was held in Christchurch last October. In those works I took the idea of the diseased surface which had emerged in my earlier Wallflowers paintings on acetate and developed a body of work exploring a range of diseases introduced into the Pacific Islands through European contact. The Quarantine series continued my investigation of issues related to cultural marginalisation which has been a common thread running through my painting practice since 1998.

The white cube of the gallery space became a quarantine zone in which my graphic black and white viral paintings were isolated. Upon entering the space, the viewer was metaphorically exposed to contamination and found themselves in the position of the Pacific peoples whose wellbeing was endangered through exposure to virulent European diseases and continues to be threatened today through sub-standard and overcrowded living conditions in areas such as South Auckland. The theme of desecration was  manifested in this series of work through my decision to paint over tapa cloth, replacing the culturally significant designs with a diseased painterly surface upon which the infectious microbes gathered and multiplied.

In the Bad Medicine exhibition I have continued to paint in thick enamel on a tapa cloth ground but I have reintroduced colour using a palette of enamel paints in discordant combinations. The heavily built-up surfaces of the paintings are overlaid with chemical structures derived from a range of manufactured cures for diseases. Ampicillin, for instance, is the chemical used to produce medication for the treatment of both meningitis and gonorrhoea. Furazolidone is used as a treatment for diarrhoea, typhoid and cholera while Zanamivir treats influenza. The chemical Disulfiram is used as a treatment for the chemical addiction, alcoholism. The paintings in Bad Medicine operate as an ironic commentary about disease prevention, control and treatment, for although the diseased painterly surfaces that made up the Quarantine series are now overlaid with possible cures, all of these diseases were preventable in the first place.

Both the thick enamel surfaces and the return of colour in this series of paintings are tied to the idea of the synthetic, the plastic and the man-made.  The paintings become themselves bad medicine.