I AM / MAI
7 1/2 ft H x 17 ft W x 35 ft D
toughened sandblasted glass,
3 pieces each: 7 ½ ft H x 3 ½ ft W x 1/16th in. D.
overall installation dims: 7 ½ ft H x 17 ft W x 35 ft D.
Exhibited: Current Work, City Art Rooms Auckland 2008.
Professor Elizabeth Rankin (Department of Art History,University of Auckland):
‘An awareness of one’s bodily self is induced by the impressive work that is the pièce de résistance of the exhibition, as one confronts the vertical presence of three glass letters I-A-M over two metres high which, like personages, ‘stand’ in the same space as oneself. Moreover, one’s own image becomes fused with theirs. When seen head on, the three layers of glass act as a reflecting surface. … Added to the virtual images reflected in the surfaces are fleeting shapes formed by light as it reflects and refracts on the glass and on the walls, mingling with the shadows of viewers as they pass through the space.
The shifting images are compounded by shifting meanings. The iconic letters, which first appeared in Colin McCahon’s painting I AM in 1954, were previously given three-dimensional form in Michael Parekowhai’s The Indefinite Article (1990). Gatfield joins the debate, adding an allusion to the text ‘I am scared. I stand up’ in another of McCahon’s paintings, Scared (1976). …
These ambiguities and layered references are compounded by the forms themselves, which although also three-dimensional are not solid forms … Indecipherable when viewed in slender profile, even when viewed frontally the arrangement of the translucent letters one behind the other means that their sense is ambivalent. Not in the customary sequence of text arranged from left to right, the letters are instead read through each other, affording endless visual variations, as easily the Māori MAI as the English I AM.’
Elizabeth Rankin, 'The Galvanizing Impulse: Gill Gatfield’s Current Work' Art New Zealand, No.128 Spring 2008