"Art in the service of science", John Buchanan (Hocken
Milford Sound, looking north-west from Freshwater Basin",
by John Buchanan
The mid-19th century was a period filled with remarkable
colonial artists: crafts people who combined the skills of
painters and engravers with the eye of the scientist, often
extending their skills over several fields of study. One of
the most skilled of such people was Dunedin's John Buchanan.
Born in Scotland in 1819, Buchanan arrived in Dunedin shortly
after the city's founding.
Although botany was his chief interest, and many of his
studies are of New Zealand plant life, he was also an
accomplished landscape artist and successfully turned his
hand to other scientific illustration, notably sketches of
birds and of the skeletal remains of moa.
It is with one specific landscape, a panorama of Milford
Sound, that Buchanan's name is most often connected. A
landmark work in early colonial art, it forms the centrepiece
of the Hocken's well-realised exhibition. Landscapes and
botanical studies dominate the main hall of the gallery, with
the side rooms dedicated to the artist's other natural
history works. Numerous cases present book illustrations,
sketchbooks and scientific papers.
As always with Hocken shows, the exhibition is thoroughly and
excellently presented and annotated, as befits an often
overlooked but important name from this country's early art
"Blackbird", by Karen Baddock
• "New works", Karen Baddock and Jane Crisp (The
Bird life takes centre stage at The Artist's Room with an
exhibition by Jane Crisp and Karen Baddock. Both artists
present their subjects with a realist's eye, but their two
styles are significantly different and complementary.
Depicting the vibrant and forceful life energy of these
creatures is a rare skill, and it is one which both of these
artists have achieved. Jane Crisp's acrylics create a
photographic realism. Every feather and line is placed with
delicate precision, and the plumage glows with soft
iridescence as the birds emerge from the depths of their
darkened backgrounds. A soft touch of the surreal is added
with the birds being accompanied by props of books, keys and
fob watches, the effect harking back to the tradition of
Karen Baddock's bird images are simultaneously less and more
realistic. Her oils, while still delicate, do not have the
pinpoint photographic detail of Crisp's birds, yet these are
distinctly living creatures in their own element, generally
placed against realistic backdrops to produce naturalistic
scenes. These images are accompanied by a series of fine
still lifes, which clearly show her compositional skill while
also nicely rounding out the exhibition.
"Figure at elevator", by Duncan West
• "People and buildings", Duncan West (Inge Doesburg
As we travel through our daily lives, many of us fail to notice
the transition areas which lie between our arrival and
destination points. When they do register with us, it is
because they are distinctive or picturesque. But more often
than not, these zones are less memorable, and blur into each
other; they may be innocuous, or have subtle disquieting
undertones. Often, however, they have a character which is
worthy of immortalising.
It is these points which Duncan West explores in his current
exhibition. His paintings and prints memorialise the
unnoticed, homing in on the hallway, the elevator door, the
solitary urban dweller. The combination of implied isolation
and disorienting anonymity lends his paintings an unsettling
edge, and the often bland emptiness is emphasised by the
slab-like washes of paint with which he often builds his
West's prints, though more detailed, have a similar theme.
The darkness of the city at night becomes an added presence
to the images which dwell on the vacant space and
graveyard-shift dairy. Lights show from doorways, but we are
on the outside, beyond this safe zone.
West completes his display with several card models of urban
buildings. Powered by solar cells, these take on a ghostly
glow as the light of day disappears.