Art Scene: July 1

BY LAURA ELLIOT

Nigel Wilson: “Illustrious Land Series” (Black Rabbit Cafe, Bannockburn)
Nigel Wilson: “Illustrious Land Series” (Black Rabbit Cafe, Bannockburn)
Nigel Wilson: “Illustrious Land Series”

(Black Rabbit Cafe, Bannockburn)

Slightly abstracted, a rough road winds through deserted plains and hills, the image emerging in thick strokes of a palette knife, with the immediacy and bluntness of a sculpture hewn from rock. The Long Road has a hazy effect, slightly reminiscent of an ageing photograph — or perhaps more as if you’re in a moving car, looking at the scene through a rain-splattered windscreen, the scattering of brown drips across the sky becoming mud on the glass, residue from the rural terrain. All of the works in Nigel Wilson’s “Illustrious Land Series”, currently exhibiting at Bannockburn’s Black Rabbit Cafe, emphasise the act of their creation, the movement and energy behind every streak and slash of colour. Based on the Nevis Valley, the scenes are depicted in a limited palette of earth tones, browns and greys contrasting beautifully with the crisp, cold blues of contrastingly luminescent water.

A key and consistent feature of Wilson’s work, regardless of stylistic differences between his collections, is his ability to evoke emotional recognition. You find yourself approaching and engaging with each landscape as if it’s a familiar sight, a tug at past memories, a feeling perhaps even more powerful than the instant visual identification of a photo-realistic painting. The blurring and blending of tones somehow conjures a distinct impression of the time of the day, of year, of atmosphere, a frozen stillness or a warm breeze, echoing quiet or the distant echo of footsteps. It makes for a viewing experience both immersive and memorable.

Magpie Feather by Neil Dawson
Magpie Feather by Neil Dawson
Group artists: “Fauna”

(Milford Galleries, Queenstown)

Infinite, endless stories unfold at every minute of the day, around every corner; we are living within the pages of our own and constantly walking through a chapter of somebody else’s. Our lives and existence are linked with the world around us, and the other living beings that inhabit the land, seas, and sky. “Fauna” dives into those entwined experiences and narratives.

Among the most prevalent and striking works are a number of avian studies. From a lifelike, piquant fantail to the curving sweep of wings carved into stone, birdlife flourishes throughout the gallery. Chris Charteris’ Bird Form and Sea Bird Form are stunning, capturing the arching grace of flight and sheer spirituality in his Coromandel andesite sculptures. Every smallest line emerges and connects to the next so organically that the pieces seem timeless.

Impactful from the first glance, Paul Dibble’s cast bronze Huia Talks to Death is a reminder of both mortality and continuity, the evitable cycle in which we all play our part; while Neil Dawson’s huge, spectacular Feather sculptures add a note of humour, of magic, and unexpected beauty.

Tania Patterson introduces a theatrical element, situating her series of bird sculptures within carved shadowboxes. The confines of the boxes conjure thoughts of cages, and stages, and the treatment of birds and animals as commodities and curiosities. However, several birds have broken free of their box, perching nonchalantly on the frames, perhaps a whispered warning that the forces of nature cannot be harnessed.

Bay Window by Neil Driver
Bay Window by Neil Driver
Group artists: “Winter Selection”

(Eade Gallery, Clyde)

As the golden landscape of Central Otago frosts over into the silvery silence of winter, the artists of Eade Gallery transport visitors into worlds of vibrant colour and atmosphere.

Neil Driver’s Bay Window situates the viewer in a cool-toned living space, the carefully sparse furniture rendered with his usual attention to detail and mastery of shadow. The eye travels past a foreground still life, a bowl of apples polished to a high shine, chairs sitting empty, and fixes on the large central window. It’s a domestic setting but somehow also a transitory one, as if you don’t perhaps belong in the room, are merely passing through, and will soon cross those sun-drenched fields outside.

Peter Walker’s Silver Lining is starkly different in atmosphere, painting the sprawling sky in vivid oranges, browns and greens, creating an effect of warmth erupting from within, glancing over the craggy hills like rolling fire. Layering thick brushstrokes with crinkled scraps of cloth, the artist produces a highly textural scene, both turbulent and beautiful.

Marion Mewburn’s teapots inject a lively note of whimsy and fun. Executed with intricate technical skill, each pot might have been plucked straight from the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. Black-and-white striped handles curl down like the Cheshire Cat’s tail and hidden drawers reveal secret treasures, tiny doors and windows turning functional objects into fairy-like dwellings. Flowers and birds quiver on protruding springs, as the individual inhabitant of each teapot-cottage goes about their business, hilariously uninterested and unimpressed with their audience.

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