Ava Seymour: Domestic Wild

Domestic Wild is the first survey of Ava Seymour’s ongoing series of cat-centric composites, which the artist has been developing since 2015. Drawing from her vast holdings of books and ephemera, Seymour adapts print material into photomontages, assemblages and videos. Given the size of her collection, the possibilities seem endless. The focus on a single or primary subject is characteristic of her work—Seymour has previously focused on flowers, high heels, dogs, and smokers. This restraint functions
to highlight differences within an otherwise general category as well as the formal properties of Seymour’s light-handed and enchanting compositions. The single subject becomes a vehicle for meandering relations between wide-ranging histories and disciplines. Like a Google search for ‘cat’, Seymour’s composites traverse time and place, guided by simple groupings that generate series. To date, these classifications have included gaze directions (cats looking up, down, left or right), pairings (cats with fish or dogs, or in trees), and facial expressions (cats smiling, crying, etc).

Though Seymour has previously taken and adapted her own photographs, she now works exclusively with existing or ‘readymade’ print material, operating somewhere between an archivist and collagist. Her obsessive collecting and organising is fundamental to her practice. The term ‘collage’, often used to describe her work, refers to more complex, continuous compositions made with paper and glue, and minimises the significance of taxonomy in her work. Conversely, Seymour’s recent composites span media and are restrained, with the original source material only lightly adapted. Substrates are frequently used in found (often worn) condition, and fixing mechanisms are kept simple and obvious. In this sense, Seymour emphasises the very bringing-together of materials and information—each fragment maintains a level of distinction when combined with others. Together with a preference for commonplace materials, her works carry the feeling of precarity. Despite this, her collection of cat material operates in the true sense of an archive to organise an otherwise amorphous plethora of source material—fitting for a context confronted by a constant glut of information. Over the past year, Seymour has introduced text into her compositions, giving literal dimension to the intertextuality of her work. Domestic Wild features, for the first time, purely textual works alongside pictorial counterparts, addressing the mutuality of text and image. The cats no longer appear as mere visual representations, but rather projections of our shared conceptual and emotional capacities. Domestic Wild functions itself like a composite, bringing together a carefully edited selection of works made to date, many of which were previously unexhibited. The constant flux of Seymour’s cat oeuvre manifests in several new works developed for the exhibition, including a video of sequenced kitten headshots and two cat classification chart wallpapers.

Seymour was born in Papaioea (Palmerston North) in 1967 and currently lives and works in Tāmaki Makaurau.

This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Sue Crockford.

Presented in association with Auckland Arts Festival 2024

09 March - 26 May 2024

Photos: Samuel Hartnett