Happiness is by its very nature ephemeral. Sometimes it is a state that we might only identify in hindsight. Increasingly there is an expectation that we should be happy all the time (fuelled by the self-help movement and proliferation of wellness apps), putting further pressure and expectation on these temporal moments. Choose Happiness was a group exhibition of work by emerging, mid-career and established artists from Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand that acknowledged happiness as a transient state, one only truly understood through experiencing its opposite.
For some, joy came through the very act of making - in the bright brushstrokes of Angela Brennan’s ebullient canvases or in the urgent, painterly scribbles of Salome Tanuvasa, enacted amidst the flurry of everyday family life. For others, happiness was tied to place - in the radiant, unmediated pleasure of painting on Country evidenced in the landscapes of Gwenneth Blitner or in the mosh pit of a rock concert filmed in slow motion by Angelica Mesiti (a sight made all the more poignant in the age of social distancing). Choose Happiness shifted between these exaltations of joy and more darkly humorous perspectives - Yvonne Todd photographed prim young models with forced smiles, Grant Stevens created a self-help video on steroids, complete with new age soundtrack and Matthew Harris injected his lurid, pop coloured paintings with unhinged scenes of depravity.
Choose Happiness encouraged us to be kind to ourselves too, by including works that conveyed strength in vulnerability. Natasha Matila-Smith revealed interior states; particularly the desire to love and be loved; Jemi Gale visualised wishful futures impacted by haunted pasts; Deme Te Atawhai Scott acknowledged the passage of time and the complex love of family and Noriko Nakamura presented unconventional portraits of motherhood focusing on motherhood’s perils and pleasures.