Gary Perkins

Gary Perkins

The Dirt under God's Fingernails

14 September - 2 October 1999

With support from Elam School of Fine Arts, Jenny Gibbs and the British Council


British sculptor Gary Perkins recreates the world in miniature. In down-sized works, we encounter drab domestic interiors, industrial-trailer units, electronic consoles, and fantastic spacecraft. There is an obsessive attention to detail and atmosphere. Perkins combines generic dollhouse scenography with odd disturbing details: too many hand basins or beds, automatic weapons on the kitchen table, a tunnel dug into the floor. His models suggest narratives of claustrophobia and escape.


Perkins adds another level of scrutiny. Closed circuit cameras are trained on his sets suggesting voyeuristic Trumanesque scenarios: surveillance and candid cameras. He often uses more than one camera, automatically switching from view to view. His works have been described as 'enclosures for the imagination and our fantasies of occupation and control' which 'straddle the space between childlike enthusiastic curiosity and adult pessimism regarding our interior surroundings'.


Perkins' Artspace show marries a model-maker's will to control with out-of-control subject matter—car crashes. A car rear-ends a Combi van, which flies apart in slow motion. A stunt car is caught mid jump between a ramp and an open juggernaut. A car spins endlessly on its hood. A burnt out car scrutinises itself from an incongrously in-built rostrum camera. These pieces domesticate the traumatic, bring it under control, or trap us within it—the eternal replay of a prang. Perkins produced the show as an artist-in-residence at Elam, but this is not his first outing in New Zealand. His work featured in Pictura Britanica, the British show at Te Papa last year.