Art seen: 16 March

Dead Waters, by Adam Lambaart.
Dead Waters, by Adam Lambaart.
"Fragile", Adam Lambaart

(Moray Gallery)

A significant feature of quite a lot of art is the depiction of one subject as a means to comment on another, often disparate, theme. Anton Lambaart’s "Fragile", at Moray Gallery is one such combination.

Lambaart makes the unusual but intriguing connection between global climate concerns and the male nude, presenting six paintings in which juxtapositions of male figures and nature reflect on the current crisis. The oils are presented in two short series, "The Future at the Edge of the Sea" and "The Three Icons of Fragility".

In the first of these series, full-length nudes — strong and gently sexualised — are placed in dead coastal landscapes, revealing the true fragility of seemingly powerful human life within a dying nature. Warning signs are featured in two of the works, as if to emphasise that we have been aware of the situation for some time but ignored the risks. There is an almost classical feel to these paintings, with subtle nods to several old masters.

The second series presents three close-up, deliberately attractive portraits surrounded by aspects of the natural world, suggesting that we focus too much on our own beauty while being blind to the wonders of nature surrounding us. These works make strong use of metallic paint, turning the images into pseudo-religious icons.

The Resurrection, by Pippi Miller.
The Resurrection, by Pippi Miller.
"The Halloween Party", Pippi Miller


Pippi Miller presents an impressive group of works in oil and gouache at Olga.

A recent graduate of the Dunedin School of Art, Miller’s debut solo exhibition includes several works taken from her master’s studies, and focuses on moments in time, real and imaginary. Miller draws on characters involved in seemingly mundane activity, which on closer inspection have a sinister or surreal edge, a feature found also in the ritualistic figures of her mentor Kushana Bush’s work. Miller’s previous work in children’s book illustration is clear in some of the style, though not the subject matter, of her images.

Miller cites Belgian painter Michael Borremans as an influence, and there is something very Belgian about her art, with hints of not just Borremans but also a lineage from Ensor to Delvaux evoked.

The art is deliberately presented as if posters and Polaroid snapshots are being suggested. The more poster-like images, with large titles written directly underneath, definitely show the artist’s experience in book illustration. The Halloween PartyThe Bacchanalia and The Resurrection are solid, attractive pieces with something of the air of screen prints. They Tell Us This is Our Home and Wednesday Morning, with their empty, haunted rooms, provide a more introspective side to the artist’s work which is both subtle and very effective.

White Collar, Fried Egg, Eclipse, by Jonathan Cuming.
White Collar, Fried Egg, Eclipse, by Jonathan Cuming.
"Choosing a Budgie", Jonathan Cuming

(Brett McDowell Gallery)

Jonathan Cuming’s exhibition at Brett McDowell Gallery presents a series of expressionist mixed-media images which combine a love for depicting the everyday with a quirky sense of the absurd.

Cuming’s art combines themes from both the other exhibitions reviewed: we are presented with snapshot-like scenes of characters going about their quotidian lives while seemingly unaware of the beauty of nature around them. This theme is perhaps best summed up in the work White Collar, Fried Egg, Eclipse, in which a half-awake man prepares breakfast while being oblivious to the eclipse occurring outside.

The works are impressive yet enigmatic. Tiny details of everyday life are shown in images such as New Old Mugs and the whimsical image of a cat disappearing in Cat-Door Dissolve, and a yawning Bored Businessman. The titles become important features of the work, adding a wry commentary and often surreal edge to images such as Death Combing His Hair, and adding an extra layer of mystery to pieces such as The Collector and the boldly composed A Man Leaving. This latter work, focusing strongly on a shoe on a railing, seems to suggest someone leaping from a window ledge, a message which might not have been clear without the prompting of the title.

By James Dignan