Art seen: 19 January

Golden Lake — Silhouette, by Rachel Hirabayashi. Photo: Melanie Eade
Golden Lake — Silhouette, by Rachel Hirabayashi. Photo: Melanie Eade
"Silhouette", Rachel Hirabayashi and Lynne Wilson

(Eade Gallery, Clyde)

As much beauty can be found in the shadows as in the light, and artists Rachel Hirabayashi and Lynne Wilson delve into the shapes and shimmer of negative space in their dual exhibition. Encouraged to revisit unfinished work, Hirabayashi plays with visual effects, casting foregrounds into shadow, the trees in full silhouette, while the background hills and water shine in the sun. The viewer stands in the shade as the light skates over the distant mountains and glides into the horizon. The effect is beautiful and calming, a reminder of Central Otago’s late afternoons, the heat of the day lowering to a gentle, breeze-stirred warmth and shadows stretching across the shore. Hirabayashi lets her paint blend and blur organically, the canvas bearing the marks of movement, scattered visible brush strokes and trailing colour lending an intimacy and energy to each piece.

Wilson takes her sculptural ceramics to new levels with her "Waka — Silhouette" series, the works fully conveying the sense of the local landscape. As the eye skates over each highly textural layer, you see the lakes in your mind, the mountains, hills, plains, tussock, and valleys, vivid imagery conjured by clever suggestion. Inspired by the reflections in the high windows of a neighbouring home, the shadow-edged hills of Reflections I sink further into darkness with the movement of the sun, while Icons of Cromwell is a visual postcard of the region, the depths of the lake glinting in the shadow of the Sugarloaf.

Listen to the River, by Gail de Jong. Photo: Laura Elliott
Listen to the River, by Gail de Jong. Photo: Laura Elliott
"Summer Exhibition", group show

(Hullabaloo Art Space, Cromwell)

From Sue Rutherford’s glittering, elegantly wrought Gem Stone Beach, a set of ceramic shells that twinkle under the light, capturing the patterns and rhythms of the seaside, to Andi Regan’s serenely soaring Kuaka (Godwits) and Lizzie Carruthers’s delightful anthropomorphic animals, the summer exhibition at Hullabaloo Art Space is packed with gems. Carruthers’ The Little Floater and The Potential Little Floater are a particularly charming pair among her expressive menagerie — a pair of aquatic hedgehogs, one drifting happily in his flotation ring, the other hovering indecisively on the side of the pool with his flippers and goggles.

Debbie Neill’s wall-mounted wire sculptures are a striking addition to the space. Focusing on the female form, Neill "sketches" with wire, shaping curved waists and reclining limbs from metal with the same delicacy as the merest whisper of a pencil stroke. The use of varying thicknesses of wire is genius, with the thicker outlines contrasted by thin, looping interior details; and the whole of each sculpture casts yet more lines in shadow, bringing both the light and the wall itself into the work. The figures have minimal facial details, yet are full of character and perfectly convey their respective moods.

In Listen to the River, Gail de Jong adeptly transports the viewer back to the days of traversing an echoing, awe-inspiring land. The landscape winds down through craggy, textural hills, glinting with hints of gold and dusted with scarce light, to the hiss and rush of the forefront waterfall.

Marsden’s Books, by Dick Frizzell. Photo: courtesy Milford Galleries Queenstown/Glenn Frei
Marsden’s Books, by Dick Frizzell. Photo: courtesy Milford Galleries Queenstown/Glenn Frei
"The Whakatipu Chronicle", group show

(Milford Galleries, Queenstown)

In Euan Macleod’s Figures with Smoke, the artist’s characteristic shadowy figures slip into the encroaching grey smoke in the surrounding landscape, their presence ephemeral and fractured, as if the brush strokes capture the blur of moving limbs or the scattered recollections of a past event. Likewise, in Figures / Peninsulas, the abstracted, ghostly echoes of people walking past, crossing one another’s steps, suggest the passage of time and the many lives and stories that are briefly entangled in a single location. It’s always a treat to see Macleod’s work; and the summer show at Queenstown’s Milford Galleries brings together other treasures, both new and considerably less recent. A beautiful piece from 1988, Ralph Hotere’s stained-glass Winter Solstice has an atmospheric weight that belies the inherent delicacy of the design.

Taking a more decisive turn into abstraction, Leanne Morrison’s Red Sky / Black Night and Shadow Play use wide swathes of colour to play with the relationships between different tones, the physical characteristics of the paint, and the surfaces on which it’s placed. Morrison’s work encourages an exploration into the actual process of art creation, where the artist is interacting solely with their tools and the canvas, rather than looking externally for inspiration. The artwork itself is the subject, rather than the imagery it displays.

Other standout pieces include a personal favourite example of Dick Frizzell’s work, Marsden’s Books, and Paul Mason’s stunning Patinated Bronze Crucibles, which look like they belong in a grand palace of the past.

By Laura Elliott