Art Seen

In this week's Art Seen, Robyn Maree Pickens and James Dignan look at exhibitions from Philip Jarvis, the Eskdale Gallery, and Joanna Tokona.


Toothpaste Tubes Doing Parkour (detail), 2017, by Philip Jarvis
Toothpaste Tubes Doing Parkour (detail), 2017, by Philip Jarvis
''Toothpaste Tubes Doing Parkour'', Philip Jarvis (DPAG Rear Window)

The title tells only half the story, so do go and see for yourself. Jarvis' ceramic and found-object installation is a testament not only to the seemingly elastic spatial dimensions of the Rear Window space, but to the artist's irrepressibly quirky art making.

In this work, Jarvis brings together a training discipline (parkour), oversized toothpaste tubes disgorging jets or whorls of coloured toothpaste, a bathroom setting, and a self-help culture of slogans (painted on the toothpaste tubes). It is quite a lot to bring together!

To hazard a guess at how Jarvis arrived at this particular combination of elements one could say that the elasticity of the parkour practitioners as they contort their bodies over, under and around architectural obstacles may have reminded Jarvis of toothpaste tubes - or vice versa. Given that the drama unfolds in a bathroom it would appear that the ceramic toothpaste tubes are the primary protagonists. Perhaps this is their dedicated sporting arena and we are witnessing the 2017 Toothpaste Tube Parkour Olympics.

The toothpaste tubes perch on the toilet seat, on the top and bottom of the vanity unit and hand basin, on the white wooden chair. One hangs from the ceiling and one ''stands'' on the toothpaste oozed from its tube. A pointed message painted on one tube tells us, ''This will change''.


Return to Cookie Mountain, 2017, by Sharon Singer
Return to Cookie Mountain, 2017, by Sharon Singer
''Launch'' (Eskdale Gallery, formerly Mint Gallery)

Launch is a significant exhibition for a number of reasons and marks the new direction forged by the gallery's director Murray Eskdale. Mint Gallery is now Eskdale Gallery. This transition is, therefore, also an opportunity for Eskdale to define and showcase the stable of artists and art he represents (or exhibits). In this way ''Launch'' can be considered a signature exhibition. It is also the Christmas season, which is traditionally an occasion for dealer galleries to exhibit small to medium works. Eskdale manages to negotiate all these contingencies to produce a group exhibition that is full and varied, yet elegant.

The works are hung closely together yet the exhibition gains rather than loses by relative proximity. Eskdale includes works in a variety of media from fine pencil (Scott Flanagan) to embroidery over found imagery printed on fabric (Jay Hutchinson), abstract acrylic (Kirsten Ferguson), reed and coloured glitter sculpture (Madeleine Child), ceramics (Marie Strauss, Blue Black, Philip Jarvis), photography (Eskdale) and fine botanical paintings in gouache and watercolour (Anete Neutze).

It is difficult to pick a favourite, but Child's sculpture, with its mix of the natural (reeds) and the artificial (glitter), Blue Black's ceramics (flower heads, artichoke, thistle dipped in a clay slip, fired, and glazed), and Sharon Singer's tastily titled painting Return to Cookie Mountain, in which a mountain erupts into psychedelic pattern, are standouts.


Watching, by Joanna Tokona
Watching, by Joanna Tokona
''Wairua'', Joanna Tokona (Moray Gallery)

Joanna Tokona has settled into her new home in Wairoa, in northern Hawke's Bay, and she and her family are gradually merging their spirit into the land.

The pun of her latest exhibition's title is not accidental. Wairoa is a land of spirit, where the wairua feels close at all times. This wairua comes through in Tokona's art. Wairoa stands at the borders of land, sea, and sky, and it is this rugged nature that the artist captures in a series of strong, heavily impastoed works.

Many of the pieces are reduced to muted tones of strong greys and bone-like white, and in these pieces the solid daubs of paint have been effectively used to produce bold impressions of wood and rock. In other works a startling strength of colour comes through, most notably in the sunset scene Twilight. In several of the images, Tokona rejects the artificial shapes of stretched canvas, painting directly on pieces of driftwood and, in doing so, connects her paintings even more directly with the land.

Unlike many of Tokona's earlier works, the human figure is absent in many of these paintings, though the feeling is still of portraiture - the artist is painting portraits of the land rather than its inhabitants.

- Reviewed by James Dignan

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