Rohan Wealleans: Apocalyptic Intuition

Rohan Wealleans is a maker of worlds, a crosser of realms. His new body of work Apocalyptic Intuition transforms the gallery space into something other, magical and alien. This is a realm of wizards and fallen giants, of spells and oracles, all summoned through layer upon layer of bright acrylic house paint. Wealleans uses paint as a powerful transformative substance – it is always in the process of becoming something or somewhere else.

Some of these objects have lived other lives. The Wizard of Forgotten Flesh was originally a prop from the film Legend of the Seeker; the large head (of actor Kevin Smith) comes from Xena: Warrior Princess. Wealleans often entwines his work with popular cultural forms— the more b-grade the better—tainting the serious art of painting with the low-brow amusements of the arcade or the video store. His paintings are made to elicit visceral reactions: to amuse, to arouse, to shock, to scare. But as with all good horror, fantasy or sci-fi creations, these responses often tap into more deeply rooted personal fears and cultural taboos.

The Wizard of Forgotten Flesh commands this space from both the floor and the wall. The forty eight paintings on the wall trace the life of the wizard: from his conception, abduction by aliens, training and epic battles. Some give painterly form to spells and incantations. Like the mosaics or stained glass windows of churches, or the frames of a comic book, Wealleans pushes these paintings into a single narrative structure to track the journey of its hero.

The invitation to enter the decorated interior of the pod-like head transgresses most expectations of the painted object. This is a work to be experienced from the inside out, realising the promise of Wealleans’ wall-bound paintings which are peeled back, sliced open, or ritualistically gutted to expose their bright innards. Painting manifests here as both body and portal, holding the potential to transport its audience between different realms and states of being.

The wizard is surely a stand-in for the artist. Apocalyptic Intuition plays out and hams up the act of painting as an all powerful transformative or shamanistic force that reaches far beyond rational explanation and purpose. Painting here sits alongside summoning and spell-casting as a dark art that holds the capacity for both the creation and the destruction of entire worlds.

City Gallery Wellington, 23 June–23 September 2012