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''Dunedin art royalty'' is the only description possible for the artists in the Brett McDowell Gallery's current exhibition. The works, by the late John and Anna Caselberg, sit alongside work significantly connected to the couple by Anna's father, Toss Woollaston, and family friend Colin McCahon.
The exhibition's title references the close-knit art milieu that surrounded McCahon, Woollaston, and their contemporaries. A bond of fellowship saw collaborations and exchanges of ideas, and in many cases here you can see a strong interweaving of thought and mutual inspiration, more than merely as family members and friends, but also as mentors and sounding-boards. This is well exemplified by Caselberg's views of Otago Peninsula; the framing of the scene is reminiscent of McCahon's well-known aerial view of the peninsula, the style reflects Woollaston's grand expressionistic slabs of colour.
The current exhibition, as well as being a rare glimpse of works by these artists together, is an opportunity to focus on the elaborately written poetry of John Caselberg, presented here in vast sheets in the writer's own hand and as part of the McCahon painting. The presentation of these pieces as visual art draws attention to the power of the word as a form and as a key to emotion. The works become both vital poetry and a strong visual presence.
Family links also play a strong part in Ron Esplin's exhibition at the Green Island Gallery. Like many artists, Esplin has inherited much of his interest and ability in art, and in this exhibition he has used this connection to present a nicely themed display.
Esplin's travels have taken him to many of the places which were important milestones in his parents' life: Scotland, from where they came; New Zealand, where they settled; and many points in between. Esplin has told the story of their travels through his paintings, with landscapes of the important and memorable places on their journey. Deftly shaded in bright watercolour, the journey comes to life, with the viewer taken on a world tour through many interesting places.
Placed nearby in the gallery is a smaller selection of works by Ron's father, Tom Esplin, significantly displaying scenes of similar locations from his travels. Though the styles may be different and the locations are not identical, there is a link and a reaching across the gulf of time and generation here which makes their inclusion fitting and important. They do more than provide a reference point - they provide a psychological insight into Ron Esplin's passion for painting.
It is often difficult to know what to say about conceptual art. This is particularly the case when the art is aleatory, being a series of reactions and counter-reactions, as is the case in ''Put Up Your Dukes!''
The exhibition is designed as an analogy of debate - specifically the debating style created and used for the 1858 exchanges between American politicians Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. To work this analogy into artistic practice, the two artists - who have worked, but never exhibited, alongside each other in the past - took turns to create works, each piece being a direct reaction to the previous. In consequence, the works swing between extremes.
Working strictly from self-imposed rules, Sorensen has used the concept of art as the abandonment of sense and normality, whereas Amodeo has used analysis and the work ethic as touchstones. The works are by turn bewildering and fascinating, and come to some sort of realisation that art is both and neither of these things. The individual works move towards a common contemplation of collection and categorisation as both a means and an end, most intriguingly in the mutually competing Garden (Sorensen) and PODOCARPACEAE/Dacrycarpus - PANDANACEAE/Freycinetia (Amodeo), and in Amodeo's multimedia work Sound and Vision.