Reviews, News and Commentary

Simon O’Neills magnificent performance with the NZSO


Podium Series Spirit

August 7

Auckland Town Hall

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

One positive result of Covid 19 is that the New Zealand tenor, Simon O’Neill was marooned in this country instead of performing at international venues. As a result one of the world’s great tenors  was able to perform with the NZSO singing work by Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss.

The concert in the Auckland Town Hall was the first of the orchestras restarted concert series in Auckland coming on the back of the orchestra havingpreviously gained the bizarre honour of being the first orchestrain the world to give a concert without Covid 19 restrictions.

The orchestra opened the concert with a fitting celebratory work , the Berlioz “Le Corsaire” overture, a roller coaster of a work full of colour and drama with Hamish McKeich driving the orchestra on with enthusiasm and flair.

O’Neill sang Mahler’s  “Songs of a Wayfarer” and a set of Strauss songs, two of which were  the earliest he wrote and a group of four he had written for his wife on their wedding day.

He sang with superb clarity, ensuring that every word and musical phrase was considered. He displayed an understanding of the narrative of each of the poems and rendered them with an emotion richness.

His body language and acting, subtle hand movements and awareness of the orchestra combined to make this a magnificent performance

He provided an operatic intensity in his command of the stage displaying absolute control and establishing himself as a character  rather than a singer. At times he was singing directly to the audience at other times to an unseen companion and frequently he would be become introverted  as through in a state of reverie.

The Mahler songs are not merely the musings of a wanderer reflecting on his physical and emotional loneliness they are also an expression of the young composer grappling with his personal life and his feeling of being outside society.

Singing “Dei zwei blauen Augen von meinem Schatz” (The two blue eyes of my love)  O’ Neills pleading voice of the weeping, despondent Man Alone  soared above the wasteland of despair created by the orchestra was tender and moving while in “Ich hab’ ein gluhend Messer” (I have a gleaming knife)  his voice took on a frantic tone as he crouched, his body buffeted  as though overwhelmed by the coming dark storm of the growling orchestra.

In singing the Strauss songs which were all similar in tone and  O’Neill gave a superb almost Wagnerian performance. The lively ‘Heimliche Aufforderung’was  full of youthful intensity, expressive of love and infatuation. While with “Ruhe meine Seele” (Rest thee my Soul) he eloquently captured the singers “troubled spirit” as he competed with the occasionally engulfing orchestra.

The major work on the programme was Prokofiev’s Symphony No 5 composed during summer of 1944 as the tide of war was turning and Soviets were pushing back the Nazis from their borders.

Prokofiev was sheltered from the worst of the war at a country dacha for composers at a former aristocratic estate. Here he contemplated the war at a distant, imagining a new world after the conflict.

This is reflected in the music where there are contrasts between bright spring-like passages and sounds of turmoil, where little dance sequences meet oppressively tense passages.

The innovative music is threaded through with themes from his other work such as the ballet Romeo and Juliet and his film music for Ivan the Terrible.

For the composer it is a work where political and social ideology find common ground with his personal vision. Hamish McKeich and the orchestra managed to convey the devastation and joy of the work along with visions of battlefields and peaceful landscapes with a thoughtful, energetic performance.

Future NZSO Concerts

Brahms orch. Parlow Hungarian Dance No. 5 & 6
Stravinsky Danses Concertantes
Maria Grenfell Clockwerk
Mozart Idomeneo Ballet Music 

Wellington August 28, Auckland September 4

Robin Toan “Tū-mata-uenga “God of War, Spirit of Man”
Elgar  “Cello Concerto” (Andrew Joyce Cello)
Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 6 Pathétique

Wellington August 29. Dunedin September 1. Christchurch September  2, Auckland September. 5

These concerts will be conducted by New Zealander Gemma New who will be conducting NZSO concerts in August and September. She is currently Music Director of the Hamilton (Canada) Philharmonic Orchestra, Resident Conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Music Director of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. Hailed as “a rising star in the musical firmament” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch), New was awarded Solti Foundation Career Assistance Awards in 2017 and 2019.

New has conducted numerous orchestras including the Atlanta Symphony, Toronto Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Calgary Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, and back home to New Zealand with the Auckland Philharmonia, Christchurch Symphony and Opus Orchestra.

Reviews, News and Commentary

Morgen. Songs for Cello and Piano

Morgen, Songs for Cello and Piano

Andrew Joyce (cello)

Rae de Lisle (piano)

Atoll Records

RRP $30.00

With their new recording “Morgen” pianist Rae de Lisle and cellist Andrew Joyce have created a splendid arrangement of twenty-two songs by a range of composers for cello and piano. The selected works are well-chosen, and all take on their new instrumental cloaks superbly.

The cello’s range has often been noted as similar to the range of the human voice with the lowest cello note at the bottom range of a basso profundo and high notes that match that of a diva coloratura.

De Lisle and Joyce manage the transformations wonderfully, able to have the pieces sound so close to that of the human voice that often one can feel one is listening to a singer rather than an instrument.

The works include songs by Brahms, Dvorak, Schumann and Strauss as well as arias by Catalani and Korngold. They all deal with love, mainly that between a man and a woman but some are more atmospheric and there is a lullaby by Brahms.

Throughout these works it is the cello that takes on the melodic line of the singer expressing the emotional richness of the work displaying both the angelic and tragic. De Lisle’s piano provides a solid foundation as well as adding depth.

They pieces range from the sweet “Minneleid” by Brahms through the ecstatic “A Chloris” by Reynaldo Hahn to Catalan’s more tragic “Edden? Ne andro Iontana”.

The opening group of Brahms songs are a mix of the melancholic and lyrical, full of sweet sadness. As with many collections of such songs they are individually very moving, collectively they lose their power, so it is best to listen to them one at a time.

Cellist and pianist carefully shaped each song, balancing their sounds so carefully at times they seem to be more in harmony than a singer and pianist might be. This creates a great sense of intimacy and emotion.

Throughout the pieces one senses de Lisle and Joyce understanding the links between the vocal / melodic line and the accompaniment. The piano plays an important role in providing the tensions and contrasts necessary to fully appreciate the subtleties of several of the pieces such as Dvorak’s soulful “Lasst mich allein”.

Korngold’s “Marietta’s Lied”, from his opera Die tote Stadt is the most contemporary of the works premiering in 1920. The opera’s theme of the loss of a loved one was particularly relevant to a Europe which had suffered widespread loss during World War I, but the work can now be interpreted in terms of sexual obsessions and disillusioned sacrifice. This poignancy was revealed by the perceptive playing of the duo.

In three of the pieces including Strauss’ “Morgen”, Joyce and de Lisle and joined by Joyce’s daughter Julia playing the viola which adds a subtle layer to the pieces

The programme notes accompanying the CD provide a fine narrative linking the works to their original songs.

Reviews, News and Commentary

Mozart & Dvorak

Hamish McKeich conducting the APO Image: Adrian Malloch

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra

Mozart & Dvorak.

Auckland Town Hall

July 16

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The highlight of the APO’s recent Mozart & Dvorak concert was neither of the two big works on the programme, concert, Mozart’s bassoon Concerto and Dvorak’s Sixth Symphony.

It was the short encore by bassoonist Ingrid Hagan, the APO’s Principal Bassoonist playing a moving version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

Replicating the gravelly tones of Cohen, Hagan’s instrument, sounding at times like a saxophone and at other times like a low voice, was a work worthy of being a eulogy to the victims of Covid 19.

Before the encore Hagan had performed Mozart’s Bassoon Concerto, a work which was composed when the composer was eighteen as he was embarking on his adult career. It was designed to show off his talents and is full of youthful exuberance and technical intricacies, requiring the soloists to race between the high notes and the guttural tones at the lower end of the instruments range.

Hagan’s stylish performance showed that she had complete mastery of the technical demands  as well as understanding the nuances of the work.

The bassoon is an ungainly instrument  but with Hagan it seemed like an extension of her limbs, embracing it and at times seeming to dance with it.

She had a bravura approach to playing which matched the composer’s showmanship especially in the solo sections where she displayed remarkable flair and  skill.

The main work on the programme was Dvorak’s Sixth Symphony, in which he evokes four landscapes owing much to Beethoven and Brahms. Each of the movements was a musical description of a landscape threaded through with  folk tunes; the idyll forest scene with hunting calls,  cascading rivers and passing storm, the pastoral second movement and the heady drama of the third movement with its urgent dance melodies borrowed from his own Slavonic Dances.

The concert was originally going to feature  Handel’s oratorio “The Creation” with a huge choir, but this was abandoned  because of the Covid Crisis. The audience did however get to hear the opening orchestral section of the work, ”Th e Representation of Chaos” in which the composer imagined  the creation of the world  according to Genesis.

One of the impressive things about the piece is that it captures the essence not so much of Creation but Evolution. One can detect the beginnings of life from nothingness, the emergence from the primeval swamp and the ascent of man, all conveyed by a series of  radical musical sequences and “big bangs”

This contemplation of the world was followed by an equally  thought-provoking work with Charles Ives’ “The Unanswered Question” in which the composer addresses the  question of existence.  An offstage trumpet seems to pose the question while the flutes attempt to answer initially with slow tentative refrains and an increasingly frenetic collage of discordant notes as well as eloquent silences. Throughout this conversation the strings were superbly conducted by Hamish McKeich   providing a sense of timelessness with their serene infinite sounds.

Next APO concert

New Horizons

Auckland Town Hall

July 30

Lilburn, A Song of Islands
Szymanowski, Violin Concerto No.2
Sibelius Symphony, No.2

The concert opens with Lilburn’s A Song of Islands, being performed by the APO for the first time. Written by the New Zealand Douglas Lilburn in 1946, it is said to portray the spirit of our country, the remoteness of our islands and the otherworldly ambience of our landscapes.

APO concertmaster Andrew Beer plays the early twentieth century Polish composer Karol Szymanowski’s Second Violin Concerto.

The main work on the programme is  Sibelius’s beautiful and life affirming Second Symphony.

Ingrid Hagan Image: Adrian Malloch
Reviews, News and Commentary

Kathryn Stevens “Surfacing”

Kathryn Stevens, Cell 4

Kathryn Stevens, Surfacing

Whitespace Gallery

Until July 30

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

In her latest exhibition “Surfacing” Kathryn Stevens continues her investigation of analytic abstraction in which she combines elements of architectural space, light, textiles, origami, and landscape to create works which explore connections between shape, light, colour, and perception.

The gallery is dominated by three large works on 3.4 metre sheets of architectural drafting film. This diaphanous material allows light to seemingly flood through the work. Each of the works entitles Surfacing ($7500 each) are monumental in scale  and monochrome in contrast to the more colourful, smaller works in the show.

They convey the idea of movement and drama with a sense of three dimensionality, the overlapping and intersecting shapes describing a topology of landscapes.

The smaller works in the show appear to be complex versions of origami coloured paper folded into shapes with patterns and colour which overlay and intersect.

Some works appear to be strongly derived from architectural shapes as in “Cell 4” ($3500) which could be the corner of an internal room with dramatic lighting.

There is a clever use of colour with all the works with subtle shifts in colour, tones, and shapes. Paralleling this interest in colour  is the astute use of light which defines the architectural and constructed elements as well as creating indefinable abstract spaces. In “Cell 14” ($3500) light appears to overwhelm the coloured environment while in the darker “Cell 5” ($3500)  the light is squeezed out providing a degree of mystery.

With all the works one is conscious of the construction of shapes as the artist says “I simply like being able to see through a structure rather than it being solid; solidity changes the appearance of what is seen or unseen. It is more interesting to see through the scaffolding of a building than the facade that encloses the structure/ It’s less final; there are more possibilities.”

Kathryn Stevens Surfacing 1, 2, 3
Reviews, News and Commentary

Civilization, Photograhy Now

Michael Wolf, Architecture of Density

Civilisation, Photography, Now 

Auckland Art Gallery

Until October 18

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Civilisation, Photography, Now is a photographic exhibition which attempts to convey the idea of contemporary civilization through one hundred photographs.

In many respects it is an impossible task but what the exhibition reveals is the many common links within our current world. It shows how we are connected and engaged in our local communities, our social groups as well as[JD1]  nationally and internationally.

The photographs look at our built environments as well as the physical and social structures which impact on us.

The exhibition illustrates our increasingly global, connected society, and encourages viewers to consider where we live, how we consume, and how we travel, learn, explore and control.

The exhibition is grouped undereight aspects of contemporary civilisation:

HIVE which looks at the urban networks that form modern cities with images depicting the intricate ebb and flow of human activity in ever-changing built environments.

ALONE TOGETHER presents people and their relationships and considers how an increasingly digitised world influences our social relations.

FLOW reveals both the invisible and visible movement of people, goods and ideas around the world and the effect these systems have on our understanding of contemporary life.

PERSUASION investigates the mechanisms we use to persuade others to follow our desires, from advertising and business to religion and politics.

CONTROL highlights the impact of authority, as well as our increasing desire to dictate order and structure our future development.

RUPTURE examines social breakdown, revealing conflicts between individuals and forcing us to confront civilisation’s failures.

ESCAPE examines leisure and recreation, including cruise ships and amusement parks, as well as revealing the paradoxical stress within holiday industries.

NEXT surveys the world taking shape in the 21st century, where rapid technological advancement is global.

There are numerous ideas threaded through the photographs which relate to how we individually might define civilizations. Civilizations are generally defined by famous people, important buildings, major events as well as prevailing religious, social and political ideas.

While the exhibition was first shown in in 2018 several of the works are  very relevant to the Covid 19 environment with images of airports which now seem alien right now. Cassio Vasconcellos vast photomural “Aeroporto” composed of hundreds of separate images of airports looks like a complex  molecular structure not unlike the Covid 19 structure.

The networks of roading which now dominate our cities is seen in Christoph Gielen’s motorway interchange of spaghetti like  threads. There are also depictions of the rail networks with Alex Macleans endless rows of coal wagons as well as the overwhelming, chaotic view of the urban layout of Mexico City by Pablo Lopez Luz.

That enormous scale on which our world engages can be seen in  Edward Burtynsky’s Chinese chicken processing plant which has even more significance now. There is also Massimo Vitali’s huge food market in Sao Paulo.

Religion is also a grand scale as with Andrew Esiebo’s view of the 1km-square church in Nigeria and the huge  mosque in Jakarta by Ahmad Zamroni.

The emphasis we on the preservation of our past can be seen in images such as  Markus Brunetti’s image of Orvieto Cathedral from his Facades series, Candida Hofer’s image of the huge Baroque library at St Florians and Thomas Struth’s image of the  Greek Great Altar in Berlin’s Pergamon Museum.

The major contemporary iconic buildings of the last few years are shown including Phillipe  Chancel’s view of the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai, the massive tower blocks in China (Michal Wolf), the surreal undulating façade of the FR 23 building in Korea (Andreas  Gefeller) as well as a set of black and white images of buildings such as  London’s Gherkin and Grand Arch in Paris.

The transformed landscape is seen in images such as Edward Burtynsky’s farm irrigation where the land looks like a large abstract painting as does the oil fields depicted in Mishka Henners image while New Zealander Chris Corson Scott’s image shows the encroachment of development in  “Land Development Beside to Waikumete Cemetery”.

The role of TV / Media in our lives can be seen  in Mark Power’s image showing the crowd watching the funeral of Pope John Paul II is not merely recording the event but showing the huge bank of televisions dominating the crowd, as though the medium is more important than the event itself.

Other events are shown including a shot taken inside an almost untouched  clothing store while outside we see the twisted metal of the Twin Towers after the September 11th  tragedy.

Many of the photographers seem to be fascinated with the imposed order which comes with industrialisation, so we see serried ranks of shipping containers (Alex Maclean),

Other photographs document the dramas of the twenty-first century, the plight of immigrants packed on boats (Francesco  Zizola), migrants at the Macedonian border (Gjorgji Lichovski).

With so many of these images Henry Kissinger’s comment in his book “World Order seem prescient; “Our age is insistently, at times almost desperately in pursuit of a concept of world order. Chaos threatens side by side with an almost unprecedented interdependence”.

Mark Power, Funeral of John Paul II

Reviews, News and Commentary

NZ Trio “Origins”

New Zealand Trio, Origins

Auckland Concert Chamber

July 5

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

The New Zealand Trio’s recent concert, Origins, was one of the first live concerts post Coronavirus in Auckland and showed that they are one of the worlds outstanding musical groups, effortlessly spanning the classical and contemporary repertoire.

The five works in the concert spanned 200 years from Beethoven’s Piano Trio through to a recent commission by the New Zealand composer Sarah Ballard along with works by Mark-Anthony Turnage, Isang Yun and Alexander Zemlinsky. The five works were intended to show the range of influences on the various  composers  as well as the backgrounds and choices made by members of the trio.

The Beethoven work which gained its title for the  ghostlike second movement relies on the talents of the three players and the NZ Trio showed that they are threesome with a real sense of purpose. Individually they are exceptional musicians but when playing together they are electrifying.

Ashley Brown provided the bedrock of the piece, his cello moved from whispering to howling and rumbling, capturing an underling sense of tension. Amalia Hall gave a sensitive and energetic performance while Somi Kim at the piano never dominated the two string players integrating her beautifully expressed playing with verve.

Throughout the piece the three players seemed to communicate not only through the music but also with an empathy and awareness of each other. They brought a depth of understanding to the piece as through revisiting the composers own personal sense of nostalgia  and the mysterious.

Mark-Anthony Turnage’s “A Fast Stomp” was radical mixture of classical music infused with punk, jazz and film music. The work encapsulates the evolution of music from the classical through to modernism with a number of experimental sequences.

Sarah Ballard’s commissioned work  “Prema Lahari”  was inspired by Indian music and Sanskrit poetry and made use of a  drone as well as prayer bells. The Western instruments replicated the sounds of  Indian instruments  such as the sitar with the trio played in a  relaxed, almost yoga-like contemplative style

Isang Yun’s  “Piano Trio”  was an acknowledgement of pianist Somi Kim’s Korean heritage. Yun’s music  is an amalgamation of Asian musical styles and Western avant-garde. The work composed in the 1970’s  pushes the boundaries of music with techniques and sounds the violin and cello being played in unconventional way  – using the wood of the bow to lay the strings and extended glissandos, sliding up and down the strings. the strings brushed and lucked in the violin and cello ss well as the piano with  Kim leaning into the piano to create eerie sounds.

The music provided watery sounds; rain falling, lakes shimmering and  water dripping. These sounds provided a sense of nature but also the ventured into the realm of electronic music.

The final work on the programme was Zemlinsky’s Piano Trio” written in the 1890’s when he impressed Brahms with his originality. This work was a far cry from his more modernist works such as his opera “The Dead City”, although it prefigures his more experimental music. The first movement  was late Romanticism on a grand scale  worthy of Brahms  while the middle section had theatricality to it with the finale displaying a passionate emotionalism. This was all delivered with flawless technique capturing the late flowering of Romanticism and hinting at an emerging modernism.

Future Concerts

Origins, Nathan Homestead, Manurewa

August 29


Wellington, September 27

Rotorua, October 1

Waikanae, October 4

Christchurch, October 7

Whangarei, October 10

Warkworth, October 11


Six violinists perform Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas at the Wallace Arts Centre, Pah Homestead

An  evening of solo Bach Sonatas and Partitas each performed by a violinist from the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra with six of New Zealand’s finest world class professional violinists play this famous and significant Bach series.

All violinists have volunteered their time and expertise with proceeds from the event being donated to the APO Orchestra Relief Fund.

Wallace Arts Centre, Pah Homestead

Friday 17 July, 7.30pm

Reviews, News and Commentary

APO and NZSO Concerts

After a few months of no live concerts both the Auckland Philharmonia and the NZSO start their new concert seasons next week.

Last week the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra was the first full-sized orchestra in the world to perform to a live audience in a concert hall since the COVID-19 pandemic.

In that  concert “Ngū Kīoro… Harikoa Ake – celebrating togetherness” at Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre the orchestra joined with Maisey Rika and Horomona Horo to performed music from their successful 2019 “An Instrumental Voyage Pae Tawhiti, Pae Tata” tour. They also played the first movement from Gareth Farr’s “From the Depths Sound the Great Sea Gongs”, John Psathas’ “Tarantismo” and Richard Strauss’ “Suite from Der Rosenkavalier”.

Simon O’Neill and Eliza Bloom performed arias from Bizet’s Carmen, Puccini’s La Bohème and Verdi’s Otello.

The concert finale featured the  soloists and members of Voices New Zealand Chamber Choir and more than 100 school children  singing “Pōkarekare Ana”.

On July 8   the Orchestra plays a  Beethoven concert featuring “The Emperor Concerto” with pianist Diedre Irons and his Pastoral Symphony. Two weeks later on July 22 they will be performing Johann Sebastian Bach’s baroque masterpiece “Goldberg Variations”.

Both these concerts will be livestreamed at

Next week (July 9) the Auckland Philharmonia will return to presenting live performances with Michael Houston performing Beethoven’s “First Piano Concerto”.

Opening the programme will be the world premiere of John Psathas’ “The Five Million”, a work intended as a celebration of the country’s team of five million. Also on the programme will be Richard Strauss’ “Wind Serenade” for 13 wind instruments, written when he was only 17 and. Dvořák’s “Serenade for Strings”, one of the composer’s more popular orchestral works.

Then on July 16 the orchestra will be playing Haydn’s “The Creation: The Representation of Chaos”. This replaces the scheduled performance of the entire Haydn work.  “The Creation: The Representation of Chaos” is the first of the oratorio’s three parts an orchestral prelude  that portrays the formlessness and disorder that preceded the Creation.

Also on the programme is Ives’s “The Unanswered Question”, Mozart’s “Bassoon Concerto in B-Flat” featuring Bassoonist Ingrid Hagan , and Dvořák “Symphony No.6”  inspired by Czech folk music.

The “New Horizons” concert on, July 30 will feature Lilburn’s “A Song of Islands”,  Szymanowski “Violin Concerto No.2” with Violinist   Andrew Beer  along with Sibelius’s  “Symphony No.2”>

Michael Houstoun and Diedre Irons
Reviews, News and Commentary

Jae Hoon Lee

Jae Hoon Lee, Tilting The Horizon

Visions, Level 9, 10 Lorne St

Until July 11

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Jae Hoon Lee’s latest exhibition at Visions is of work he produced as the Artist in Residence at the Tylee Cottage in Whanganui  and the works in the show use the landscapes of the Whanganui area

The works are  focussed on the landscape, seeing it from new perspectives as a physical entity as well as the its connections with mythology, history and the imagination.

His work often features multiple images which are manipulated and combined  to create work which brings together the real world and a surreal version, in which the study of the natural world including geology, atmospheric effects, are examined,

There is an enigmatic quality to these works, full of ambiguity and visual invention along with the constant play between reality and fabrication, between deception and objectivity.

“Waterfall – Cave ($7000) presents an image of a mountain resembling Taranaki / Egmont which is framed by the opening of a cave and includes a waterfall.

The work connects with the various depictions of the mountain from  Heaphy to Perkins where the image is not just of the mountain itself but also providing a mythic and symbolic status.  It has an ethereal quality reminiscent of scenes from Lars van Trier’s  film Melancholia with its apocalyptic atmosphere.

With “Lightning – Sea Storm” ($15,000) the artist’s depiction of storm clouds and lighting captures the power and beauty of nature the extravagant of the  image could function as the background setting for a Baroque version of the Last Judgement.

In “Sunset Kai Iwi” ($15,000) the artist has employed a drone to produce an elevated view of the coast south from Whanganui with a distant view of Mt Egmont reminiscent of the photographs of Laurence Aberhart. The birds eye view  which shows the sun slipping below the horizon  is engaging both for the drama of the landscape as well as its technical cleverness.

“Sunset – Whanganui” ($11,000) is  lightly connected to the landscape with a church spire and a telegraph pole just visible below a massive, evening sunlit cloud. The cloud itself is obviously manipulated as though the photographers has stretched it out making it into a tortured mushroom cloud shape.

“Virginia Lake” ($12,500) which is a high view of five lakes is presumably some sort of cut and paste assemblage made up from Whanganui’s single Virginia Lake. As with the previous three images Lee has created  a new environment.

In all  these works he has not merely “tilted the horizon”, he has reset it relocated it presenting us with images which are both recognisable and disorientating.

Reviews, News and Commentary

Roberta Thornley

Roberta Thornley, My Head on your Heart

Tim Melville

Until July 4

Reviewed by John Daly-Peoples

Roberta Thornley’s latest exhibition “My Head on your Heart at the Tim Melville Gallery features images of balloons – Pink, orange, black, red, green, blue and silver. Set against a black background as though portraits, they have a simplicity and abstraction  which is both intriguing and imposing.

For the artist these are more than mere images of balloons as she says in notes to the exhibition

 “Mum’s waiting to get an angioplasty procedure. I picture a tiny balloon filling her arteries. I imagine the surgeon sitting bent over with pursed lips, trying to blow it up. ….I always feel sad seeing a balloon floating away in the sky….The only thing to lighten my thoughts is to think of it landing in the backyard of a home where children live.

Such personal thoughts make the title of the show more meaningful and poignant as the balloons trigger memories and emotions for the artist. For other viewers there will be other interpretations.

As with much her previous work it is not merely the obvious superficiality of the person or object which she is concerned with as each of them act as symbols or a means of conjuring up abstract ideas or emotions. These images also have a sense of narrative or a back story linking to other ideas about balloons, the tangible and the elusive.

In many cases the images lead us to make connections with other  objects and events so the  orange work “My Head on your Heart” ($6950) with its  free-floating balloon appears to connects with  historical balloons such as those of the Montgolfier’s conjuring up a sense of freedom and release. This connection to the idea of flight is  also reinforced by the background to the work which is of a vague landscape while all the other works have a black background.

“Pink Balloon and Floss” ($5500) which is probably a water filled balloon is a contrast to “My Head on your Heart” having a sense of weight and gravity.

In “Green and Blue Balloons” ($5500) there is a sense of  intimacy, the two balloons nudging each other and connected by a white umbilical cord. The “Two Black Balloons” ($5500) by contrast is a mysterious composition, the two balloons merging with the black background but connected by the white cords.

The  deflated “Silver Balloon” ($5500) which looks like some biological creature or organ has a tactile quality and there is a sense of distress and collapse with its puckered surface  as the air is seeps from the object.

With all these works the radiance of each of the balloons and the intensity of the colour demonstrates the photographers focus on colour and light, a feature of most of her previous work.