Words Francis McWhannell
Photography Kate van der Drift
Lucy Meyle is a multidisciplinary artist from Tāmaki Makaurau. Her work often explores ‘relationships between humans and the more-than-human’, and between human-made and naturally occurring entities. Earlier this year, she had a solo show at Enjoy in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. She presented a series of works that played with containers or coverings as diverse as seashells and synthetic upholstery, teasing out similarities — formal and functional — between things that might ordinarily seem far distant. A metallic mesh sleeve filled with ‘real and fake foods’ initially called to my mind environmentalist concerns, suggesting both foam protectors for mangoes and reusable net bags: rubbish and its alternative. However, when I registered the title, Snake’s Dress, the piece took on an amusing new identity as a serpent that had gorged itself on groceries. The show as a whole was marked by a distinct humorousness, relishing in the silly. Among the works was a fibreglass reproduction of a peanut husk, absurdly oversized and unutterably tactile (being a child of the 90s, I thought at once of the supermarket Big Fresh).
Meyle’s May Fair booth is no less playful. On an outdoor platform, she presents a pile of prop-like logs made 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. All mischief is out in the open. An animated element adds further theatricality. A snail glides along a log. Snails have appeared in various works by Meyle. They’re critters with multiple identities: bothersome (my lovely lettuces!), fragile (I think of threatened native snails as well as unsuspecting victims of night-time strolls), and important as decomposers. But, again, I’m getting distracted by ecological matters, losing sight of subtler details — not least points of commonality between log and snail. Both possess crunchy brown carapaces. Both are charmingly cartoonish. And both gesture beyond the bounds of the booth context, not only because they are facsimiles, but also because they are fellow entries in Meyle’s evolving catalogue of the curiously kindred.