Lucy Meyle

Written by Francis McWhannell

Photographed by Kate van der Drift

Lucy Meyle is a multidisciplinary artist from Tāmaki Makaurau. Earlier this year, she showed at Enjoy in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, presenting a series of works that evoked containers or coverings: animal shells, blousy synthetic upholstery, the husk of a peanut, a netted sleeve filled with artificial food. The ecological resonances were strong. The sleeve, for instance, recalled both reusable bags and foam protectors in a grocery store. At the same time, there was a distinct humorousness, a relishing in silliness. The peanut was not a collected specimen but a fibreglass reproduction, absurdly larger than life (being a child of the 90s, I thought at once of the supermarket Big Fresh). A similar combination of the serious and playful is present in Meyle’s May Fair booth. She presents a pile of prop-like fake logs, constructed out of recycled cardboard and brown packing tape. They’re immediately legible as blocks of wood, but quite unrealistic. The avowedly fictive exhibition space multiplies the phoniness. Imitation logs digitally inserted into an imitation environment, yet no one’s pretending otherwise. It’s all delightfully ludicrous.

An animated element in the booth amps up the gravity without robbing any levity. A snail — with its artfully evolved, homegrown container — glides along a log. Snails have appeared in various works by Meyle. They’re critters with many identities: bothersome (my lovely lettuces!), fragile (I think of threatened native snails, as well as unsuspecting victims of a night-time stroll), and vital decomposers. Tape-bark aside, I can well imagine the snail slowly but surely crunching its way through Meyle’s faux logs. In fact, for all their artificiality, there’s a delicacy to these mostly cellulosic confections. They’d disintegrate far sooner and far more easily than ceramic fireplace counterparts, or concrete-based examples at a mini-golf course or supporting jolly garden gnomes. Make it funny, Meyle seems to say. Give it a glossy carapace. But keep it sufficiently soft at the core.

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