Reviews, News and Commentary

Four landscape exhibitions

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Peter James Smith, Acheron’s Measure / Milford Sound

The Limitless Horizon. Orex, Until June 4

Paul Woodruffe, Pop Tones, Föenander, Until May 31

Daniel Unverricht, Suite, Until June 4

Clare Brodie, Elusive Forms, Scott Lawrie, Until May 28

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Four recent Auckland exhibitions show artists looking at the natural and built environment in a variety of ways with “The Limitless Horizon” at Orexart featuring  six artists looking at the landscape from various perspectives.

Peter James Smith has several works such as “Acheron’s Measure / Milford Sound” ($9500) where mathematics, history and romanticism connect.

Martin Ball, Otira Gorge (after Van der Welden)

Martin Ball’s “Otira Gorge (after Van der Welden)” ($8500) with water shrouded boulders could have been an oil sketch by the nineteenth century artist himself. Ball is also showing some of his drawings of strips of paper as in “Remnants 3” ($4800) where the creases in the paper can be read in the context of the show, as folds in the landscape or the shifting sands of  dunes.

Richard McWhannell has some idyllic landscapes including “The Princesses and their Little Brother ($7500) which is peopled with a group from a Velasquez painting. Tony Lanes paintings link the landscapes of New Zealand with those of Trecento Italian artists in “A Way Through (the Mountains)” ($6500) as well as linking notions of medieval mysticism and   The Cloud of Unknowing with the Land of the Long White Cloud

There is also Johnny Turner’s “Red Sail (Wainui Beach/ Gisborne)” ($18,500) where the solidity, colour,  texture and detail  of the red and black granite hint at the  age and variety of the landscape. John Madden’s paintings similarly hint at the energy contained in the landscape with his bold expressionist work Tokatea ($8500).

Paul Woodruffe, After All

In Paul Woodruffe’s show “Pop Tones” at Föenander many of his images exist between the real  and the fantastic. Some of the images are of recognisable locations bringing together elements of his life and environment. Within each of the works there are structures, stories and events which intersect and overlap. As a landscape designer he is probably both conscious of preserving and  landscape, understanding the landscape  as well as adapting and enhancing it.

Realist observational painting intersect with abstract designs as though there is an underlying simplicity to the landscape but also refers to the way in which we impose a geometry and design on the natural landscape.  This is all linked in “The Drawing” ($2400) where an artist is shown producing an art works surrounded by both the images of bush and houses along with a swathe of abstract designs.

In “Forest Bathing” there are three levels to the work. A realsit background in muted tones, a semi-abstract depiction of plants and then abstract shafts which reach to a canopy of abstract shapes.

“Mother”($6000) hints at the notion of Mother Earth or Gaia with a female figure tracing out arcs on an elliptical shape

Several of the paintings feature individuals in the natural environment such as “Hunters” ($3500) while in “After All” ($4500) he has  cleverly linked contemporary notions of the outdoors with Manet’s “Luncheon on the Grass ($4500).

Some of  the paintings such as “Sleeping/Dreaming” ($3500) present a landscape image split in two, one in full light the other in darkness while “Moonlight Suburbs” ($1950) is a bird’s eye view of a night-time neighbourhood.

Nocturnal views of suburban New Zealand dominate in Daniel Unverricht’s exhibition ‘Sleeping Village’ at Suite Gallery where  empty streets and the dilapidated buildings of small-town New Zealand have a film noir edge to them. There is a melancholic beauty as well as a menace in the shadowy scenes such as “Linger” ($3800) and  “Chimera” ($6800).

Daniel Unverricht, Chimera

There are also daytime images but these present an equally depressing vision with boarded up  buildings such as  Center III ($20,000) and “Insulate” ($4500) both of which look like abstract sculptural  artworks.

Several of the images are of the decaying exteriors of the rundown building with traces of weeds and fading graffiti in  “Company” ($1800)

In many of the works the artist plays with the rendering of light and colour  with a hazy impressionist approach. So, with “Cul” ($1800) the various light sources of streetlight, moonlight and house lights as well as the blurred colours and shapes make for an unsettling image.

Clare Brodie, Elusive Forms 4

The Australian  artist Clare Brodie showing at Scott Lawrie Gallery sees the world as composed of colour, shape and pattern with works which shimmer and jostle as though flooded with light.

Her views  of nature are reduced to flat planes with soft pastel colours, abstracting and  simplifying so the paintings look like elaborate jigsaw puzzles. The soft greens and blues  are interspersed with patches of vibrant purples, pinks and darker blues,  hinting at indistinct  man-made forms.

All the works are titled “Elusive Forms” and with many  of them one can detect the shape of a tree trunk, the canopy of  a tree, the dappled light on leaves and the forms of hedges. With some such as” Elusive Forms 4” ($12,500) the various elements are almost recognisable but then with “Elusive Forms 13” ($7950) the shapes seem random and ambiguous.

By johndpart

Arts reviewer for thirty years with the National Business Review

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