Art Scene: August 26


Storm in a Tea Cup by Jane Shriffer
Storm in a Tea Cup by Jane Shriffer
“Porky Pies”, Jane Shriffer

(Gallery Thirty Three, Wanaka)

As you’re drawn into the colourful whirl of Jane Shriffer’s abstracted world, it’s like standing amid swirling confetti, or in woodland with the wind wrapping around you, drawing up an encircling spiral of leaves and flowers. It’s magical and kinetic, rather than chaotic. There is a characteristic deliberation and neatness to her palette strokes; every layer of colour feels very measured and thoughtful, but the ultimate effect is one of movement and joy. Shriffer has a knack for capturing and evoking a state of being, an emotional experience — those moments in life when for a few seconds, you’re living entirely in the present, connected to the land around you, feeling time slow down and drift away for a little while.

Shriffer’s handling of colour drives much of that emotional connection. Tones that might not appear the most complementary on the palette — the delicacy of pastel pink and lilac positioned against more earthy browns and orange-reds, for instance — work perfectly on the canvas. Up close, the focus is on the strokes, the movement of the artist’s hand, the process of creation; but as you step further back, shapes and shadows emerge from within, and you begin to assign meaning, draw on memories and feel. With often tongue-in-cheek titles, every work is connected by a consistency in style, yet feels unique and distinct, in both atmosphere and aesthetics.

Finding Your Nook by Nic Dempster
Finding Your Nook by Nic Dempster
“Through the Window”, Nic Dempster

(Gallery De Novo, Dunedin)

With their bold, black outlines and cluster of bright walls, Nic Dempster’s stylised house paintings are instantly recognisable and always appealing. The geometric construction has a hint of Cubism and a clever conjunction of colours, creating a 3-D illusion whereby first one house and then another seems to jump off the canvas. While looking at each work in its entirety, if you let your vision fall slightly out of focus, the triangles and squares of the roofs swim to the forefront, everything else receding in a fascinating optical experience.

Dempster’s latest collection, “Through the Window”, is particularly pertinent viewing during a national lockdown, positioning the viewer in front of a theoretical window frame to gaze out at the windows of dozens of houses looking back. There is a uniformity to the shapes of the candy-coloured buildings, but it’s easy to imagine individual lives and dramas playing out within each household, a constellation of miniature worlds unfolding within four walls.

Salvaged by Dempster’s grandfather from the old Merton Church in the 1980s, the black window frames encompassing Window I and Window II beautifully emphasise the stained-glass effect. The particular vividity of Finding your Nook and Sunkissed brings a sense of summer into a wintry world; another personal favourite is Two Street Lights, in which houses on opposite corners of the canvas are illuminated, like a private communication between their inhabitants.

Escape 2014 by Darius Martisius. PHOTO: RBSA GALLERY
Escape 2014 by Darius Martisius. PHOTO: RBSA GALLERY
“To Be There”, Linda Nevill; and “Dawn”, Darius Martisius

(RBSA Gallery, Birmingham, England)

A lone figure heads into a frozen landscape, the branches of winter-bare trees rising above to mark a desolate path. An industrial twist of bronze and steel loops and blooms like a fantastical, alien flower. At the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists in England, pastels artist Linda Nevill and sculptor Darius Martisius are exhibiting very different collections of work, in one of many online shows accessible around the globe.

Nevill’s landscapes transport the viewer through different seasons, from a sun-drenched clifftop, awash in summer flowers, the sea a sparkling, crystalline mirror below, to the crackly, fallen leaves of a golden autumn, and a snow-obscured horizon as winter sets in. Her work is a comforting sensory experience, largely peaceful and serene.

Martisius’ sculptures are far more conceptual, a modern and thought-provoking journey through the mind of the artist. Utilising a range of media — steel, plaster, wood and bronze — the works are all smooth, sinuous curves and open-ended interpretations.

His deconstructed Torso-1 and Torso-2 somehow suggest human stature and movement while depicting almost no recognisable features, and the memorable Escape, in which an aggressive twist and chaos of metal turns into a ladder rising to nowhere, is ingeniously executed.


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