Art seen: 13 April

Tawaki Pair (Moutere Hauriri), by Mike Crawford.
Tawaki Pair (Moutere Hauriri), by Mike Crawford.
"The Royal Queenstown Easter Show", group show

(Milford Galleries, Queenstown)

The Royal Queenstown Easter Show is an unmissable opportunity to see both classic treasures and more recent standouts, like Mike Crawford’s cast glass birds. Their artistry is sleek perfection, capturing piquancy and depth with elegant lines and understated detail. Tawaki Pair (Moutere Hauriri) flaunt rich, glossy curves to mimic the proud majesty of the sculptures’ flesh-and-feather counterparts. The Tutukiwi (Motu Ihupuku) gleam like lustrous amber, one figure searching for food, the other standing protectively over its mate, a hundred movements and details conveyed in mere suggestion, subtle grooves and shadowy hollows. In a difficult, delicate medium, Crawford produces creatures of light and magic, indicative of exactly how much precision and experience underlies that execution.

Another example of beauty in minimalism, the allure of the deceptively simple, John Parker’s white glazed ceramics have the luxurious sheen of marble and the elegance of winding satin. Despite the variety of shapes — with silhouettes suggesting beehives, horns, pins, and tightly-corseted waists, as well as the traditional bowls and cylinders — external ornamentation is minimal, at most textural grooves and rings within the same monochromatic palette. Mark Mitchell’s mixed-media Skyline II likewise packs a great deal of impact and resonance into pared-back detail. The structure climbs upward in angular facets, looking almost like a child’s game, as if daring humanity to see how far they’ll build, what heights will ever be enough, as slices of sky-blue are slowly compressed within the progress.

Navigate, by Richard Adams.
Navigate, by Richard Adams.
"Navigate", Richard Adams

(Gallery Thirty Three, Wanaka)

Richard Adams’ art is multifaceted and complex. It’s also welcoming and inclusive, a silent, visual conversation between artist and viewer; and the technique and application behind his abstracted, geometric blocks of colour are incredibly distinctive. There’s a subtlety and smoothness to the physical blending of pigments that instantly identifies itself, to the point where a literal signature is almost irrelevant. His skill and artistic voice are imbedded in every brush stroke and gradient of tone.

Each collection builds on the prior, an artistic exploration that tracks through stacked shapes, colour theory, and nods to cartography— like maps and records of a sailor’s journey merging with the hazy impressions of scenic views and treasures found, turbulent weather, the powerful pull of the moon and the changing tide. The composition keeps the eye and mind constantly in motion, with overlapping borders and interrupted shapes, certain shades receding, others appearing to press forward.

Each piece fractures and reforms as a deconstructed landscape; and when viewed together, it feels as if you’re also on a journey, of highs and lows, storms and calm, from an overcast grey to a sunset glow, and the emerging pink of dawn. Ombre blues shift into a soothing, still sky; whiskers of lines suggest turbulent waters; ochre tones glow like tussock and fire. Darker blocks act as frames, opening windows and portals into different worlds; and after dramatic, busy curves of paint and life, you emerge into the absolute serenity of Altitude, floating towards the clouds.

Sleep Beside the Singing Stream, by Gail de Jong. Photo: L Elliott
Sleep Beside the Singing Stream, by Gail de Jong. Photo: L Elliott
"You Know Where It Is", Gail de Jong

(Hullabaloo Art Space, Cromwell)

Gail de Jong’s new collection is a deep dive into the physical and spiritual landscape of a very personal place; but while the works arise from the sights and memories around De Jong’s own home ground— the peaks of the Old Man and Old Woman Ranges, the rugged depths and stretches of the Nevis Valley— the exact locations conjured by her evocative scenes might differ by the individual. As we look into each canvas, across jagged rock and jewel-toned rivers gleaming under the sun, trees caught in the wind and the rain, lakes lying deep and still, sites of love and laughter, indecision and solace, that imagery becomes somehow universal. It transforms into the sights and sounds of our own homes and memories, hopes and dreams. We all have or hopefully will find that place of connection and belonging, be it real or imagined. "You know where it is."

De Jong’s work continues to pay homage to the geological history of the region, her highly textural surfaces and application reminiscent of centuries of layered rock, silt and dust and gold. There is nothing flat and soulless in the landscapes; they often might have been carved and extracted from the earth itself, and her scenes with water are always incredibly striking. Imagination and the Creek is the most abstracted piece, taut with kinetic energy, the wildness of the strokes suggesting bending branches and an exhilarating sense of freedom; while Sleep Beside the Singing Stream is incomparably calming and almost magical.