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Neal Palmer captures the drama of the New Zealand bush and endangered kauri

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Neal Palmer, Tane Moana

Neal Palmer,  On Track

Foenander Gallery, Mt Eden
14 November – 02 December

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

In 2018 Neal Palmer was the inaugural artist for the Karekare House residency provided by the Eden Arts Trust.

He has previously exhibited work from this period which he has continued to develop. His latest exhibition “On Track” at Foenander Gallery reflects on those original works which were intended  as visual responses to walking and running the Hilary Trail on Auckland’s West Coast.  Added to this his awareness of the issue of Kauri dieback has meant these new works have taken on a more urgent significance in response to the disease.

The resulting works include some of his signature paintings of flax such “Te Ahua” ($18,000) and “Northern Shadows” ($7800) with interwoven flax fronds creating images of the dense New Zealand bush. In these works there is an emphasis on the play of light on the fronds along with contrasting shapes.

Neal Palmer, Te Ahau

In others such as “Golden Returns” ($8500)  there is a concern with the painterly process and the brushstrokes are more noticeable.

He includes a large, four panel painting of Tane Moana ($24,000), the largest kauri tree remaining on the East Coast, near Tutukaka. The worms-eye view of the trunk and crown providing a sense of  the tree’s  scale and  grandeur. Another work based on a kauri is “On the Surface” ($6000) a frottage work where the artist has made a rubbing of a kauri, transferring the textures and shapes of the tree onto a curved panel.

Neal Palmer, On the Surface

There is a similar painted work with the tall “Worlds within Worlds” ($6000) where he has painted the trunk and rings of a nikau. With this work and in  “On the Surface” he has painted the trees as if they were at eye level presenting  the view one would have when walking through the bush.

This notion of the walking though the bush is also seen in the almost abstract “Follow the Signs” ($1400) which depicts a triangular orange track marker fixed to a tree. This sign signifies more than merely indicating the trail becoming a metaphor for the new direction society needs to take in relation to preservation of the natural environment.

Neal Palmer, Follow the Signs

Two small works both titled  ”Up Close and Personal” ($750) edge up to the abstract as well and are extreme close ups of foliage. One of them a slash of dark green against a greenish/white background while another possibly a section of coloured leaf against dark flax. They are both like sections taken from some of the artists larger works providing a sense of mystery.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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