Art Scene: July 8

Stormy Sounds, by Sarah Godfrey
Stormy Sounds, by Sarah Godfrey
"A Place to Go", Sarah Godfrey (Pea Sea Art)

Pea Sea Art at Port Chalmers resounds with scenes of the southern New Zealand wilderness, courtesy of Sarah Godfrey.

Godfrey’s work, in acrylic and watercolour, focuses primarily on mood and the interplay between darkness and light. Often almost leached of colour, the works impress with their focus on the tectonic structure of the land and how the light reacts with it. In several of the works, notably in a series of square and circular watercolour pieces, the land is reduced to its bare geometric elements. Using only greys and blues, pieces such as Mount Misery and Over Tones do little more than hint at the landscape, but effectively give a sense of place.

The artist has successfully experimented with texture in many of the pieces, not by means of impasto, but by the simple expedient of gluing creased tracing paper over the canvas before commencing painting. The works thus created (among them the impressive Lake Brunner and Waiting Game) have an unusual, slightly rugged and otherworldly feel that well suits the grand landscapes presented. Godfrey also makes good use of the circular frame for several works, including a lovely series of images of islands off the South Otago coast.

Wishful Notes, by Nichola Shanley
Wishful Notes, by Nichola Shanley
"Mechanics Handheld Lights for Spirits at Work", Nichola Shanley (Brett McDowell Gallery)

Nichola Shanley presents her own midwinter lantern festival at the Brett McDowell Gallery with a series of semi-humorous, semi-unnerving grotesques.

As the exhibition’s somewhat ambiguous title suggests, the works are lit from within, the gargoyle-like ceramics becoming dim ghostly beacons. Inspired by European sculpture and also by architectural features (there is something of medieval church waterspouts about the figures), there is something simultaneously joyful and sad about the distorted faces which loom from the walls. The heavyset gurning figures are, paradoxically, made from porcelain, usually associated with the lightest and most delicate of ceramic work, but here deliberately subverted into thick, almost clumsy looking forms.

However, there is nothing clumsy about Shanley’s work. Each face is individually crafted to sit and perfectly surround its electric fitting in such a way as to cast complementary shadows upon the wall. The glaze, too, is a work of art in itself, intricate and delicate in both its working and the finished result. While the figures depicted might not be the most beautiful faces, there is great beauty in their manufacture and in the end product achieved by the artist. These are fun works, not to be taken completely seriously, but they are also fine artistic pieces.

JT, by John Z. Robinson
JT, by John Z. Robinson
"Seeing Things", John Z. Robinson and Robert P. West (Moray Gallery)

John Z. Robinson and Robert P. West have joined forces for a joint exhibition at Moray Gallery. Though there is nothing which instantly suggests a connection between the two artists’ work, the two halves of the exhibition complement each other nicely.

West has continued with his extensive investigation of geometric abstraction, using the square and line as his means of expression. In a series of subtly toned, but intensely cartographic pieces, he has used recounted medieval tales of distant cities as his inspiration for Mondrianesque mind maps in which enigmatic routes are drawn between equally enigmatic points. The title This is a Place that is No Place, used for several of these works, well describes these intriguing mental exercises.

Robinson’s works are anything but subtly shaded. Colour leaps from the prints as the artist explores two of his favoured subjects, flower blooms and the male figure. The works form three distinct groups, with the Watching Autumn series, created during the 2020 lockdown, dominating the display. Robinson, a master of numerous genres of art, again turns his hand to one of the most modern of media: the works are created using computer software on a tablet. The outcome is the production of soft impressionistic images filled with a friendly vitality.

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