Jasmine Middlebrook/Philip Maxwell/Geoffrey Robinson
(Gallery De Novo)
• De Novo is a gallery of two halves in terms of the
exhibition now on show. In the ground-floor space are the
hectic, montage-like paintings of Jasmine Middlebrook; on the
mezzanine, Philip Maxwell's and Geoffrey Robinson's still lifes
seem almost Zen-like by comparison.
Middlebrook is distinctly an up-and-coming talent. Her packed
canvases abound with creative ideas, yet never to the point
of feeling overly fussy.
They strike the viewer like the unfiltered thoughts of a
fantail mind, flitting and hopping around to see the various
angles and ideas of a scene. The paintings are prelapsarian
Edens of children and wild animals amidst a world still
unfinished, and the work bears repeated viewing with ease,
new features and forms continually coming to the eye.
Robinson's gently stylised still lifes are charming, quiet
pieces, their simple structures impressing with their careful
composition. The standout work of those presented is the one
large piece, its neo-cubist framework showing both a clear,
clean working style and also the artist's courage and skill
at assessing when a painting is complete.
Philip Maxwell also delves into structure and colour with his
fine series of works based on studies of children's building
blocks. Again, it is the largest work which impresses the
most, a delicately composed graphite drawing.
"Fallen feathers", Bridie Henderson (Brett McDowell
• In "Fallen feathers" Bridie Henderson continues her
theme of the feather as a symbol of ancient culture.
The young ceramicist has been making waves in the New Zealand
art scene with her fine porcelain works, and in this, her
first full solo exhibition, she presents two series, one a
direct continuation of earlier work, the second an extension
The former of these series consists of translucent porcelain
feathers painted with thin black slip then carved back to
create patterns reminiscent of cultures from North America to
the South Pacific. These are set against a black backdrop and
backlit, the individual pieces taking on a life of their own
with their deep, delicate glow.
These works surround a second series, where the idea of the
feather as a tribal totem is extended. This series consists
of porcelain quivers filled with feather-fletched arrows, the
heads of which have been individually created from porcelain,
gouged and marked to imitate flaked flint points. The quivers
feature images of predator and prey, the objects becoming
sacred fetish symbols of a hunter's religion. The items
become the enigmatic narrators of some faux-archaeological
ceremony, a neo-Lascaux work in which the full import of
symbol and design remain a shrouded yet evocative mystery.
"Geographers Antarctica and New Zealand", Tracy Connolly
• Tracy Connolly dramatically captures the open majestic
vistas of New Zealand and the Antarctic Peninsula in her
exhibition at Mint Gallery. In a series of paintings based
largely on the photographic studies of Antarctic researcher
Sarah Mager, Connolly has effectively grasped the dramatic
sweep of the land in works where deep, sombre acrylic has been
made to glow through the use of heavy layers of glaze.
The works' great strength is, paradoxically, also a slight
failing. The pieces are beautifully realistic, precise images
of the photographed landscape. In this, however, they run the
risk of removing the essential artist's input by rendering
them pure photography rendered in paint. We are inspired by
the scenes depicted more than by the skill which has
transferred them to canvas, which is a shame, as there is
clearly talent here. Luckily for the viewer and the artist, a
few small bird studies do capturing a hidden yet essential
quality in a subject a mere photograph would not.
All this is not to detract from the beauty of the works. In
several, notably a sweeping panorama of Glentanner Station
and the two Antarctic vistas, Connolly has masterfully
captured the grandeur of the setting, beautifully recreating
these awe-inspiring scenes on canvas.