Art seen: 26 January

Introvert, by Phil Brooks.
Introvert, by Phil Brooks.
"COUPLINGS", Phil Brooks (Milford Gallery)

Phil Brooks is presenting an impressive array of her ceramic forms at Milford Gallery.

The works are a happy conundrum, drawing from strictly utilitarian shapes of water pipe connectors but subverting the forms, producing pieces that feel like new species evolved from these plumbing junctions. The ceramic items still appear to be usable as connectors or vessels, yet there are unusual aspects and angles to the shapes, as if they have mutated into forms more suited to usage beyond the scope of human plumbing.

There is a delightful dichotomy between the sleekly glazed bronze-brown interiors of the works and the attractively stressed and textured exteriors. Both surfaces have an inviting sensuousness, as if demanding the touch, and the feeling that the pieces have grown naturally rather than being shaped by human hands lends them living, breathing personalities. The placement of several of these pieces next to each other gives the impression that they are interacting as members of the same species.

There are features of Brooks' work that evoke the chess-piece like stage sets of ceramics by her occasional mentor John Parker, but rather that the cool monochrome nobility of Parker's art, Brooks has created an entirely different and unique exploration of the borderline between crafted and evolving, mineral and organic.

Kaka Beak, by Belinda Mason
Kaka Beak, by Belinda Mason
"First Light", Belinda Mason

(Wave Gallery)

Balclutha artist Belinda Mason captures elements of both abstraction and realism in her paintings, which are inspired by the brightness of flower blooms.

Mason's art is broadly impressionistic. Looming from an inky dark background, flowers are presented as hesitantly blurry forms, so that it is colour rather than form which strikes the viewer. Only the faintest of hints of shape are present: the curve of a pear's green body, or the arc of a kaka beak. The works are the painterly equivalent of the deliberate soft focus of bokeh photography, a style which Mason freely admits as an influence.

With the removal of formal elements, colour and composition become Mason's means of presentation. The artist's previous experience with using pastels has inspired her to work the oils in this series so as to create the same soft edges. Colours emerge boldly from the dark, as if someone walking through a midnight garden has momentarily illuminated a bloom in the light of their torch. The initial out-of-focus sight of the suddenly bright flower gives a strong impression of the plant without allowing for absolute recognition. So too the works in this display present the idea of a flower without rendering it so forcefully as to remove the mystery and shock of its first appearance.

Miniature Birds, by Samantha Lissette.
Miniature Birds, by Samantha Lissette.
"Summer Collection", (Fe29 Gallery)

Fe29 Gallery's Summer Exhibition focuses mainly on the work of five artists, three of them working in two-dimensional pictorial forms, the remaining two in bronze sculpture.

Amy Melchior's ink and encaustic impressions are largely inspired by marine life. The pieces consist of luminous backgrounds of glowing colour, heavily redolent of ocean depths, within which sit heavily worked cellular forms. The strong line and colour in these works contrasts boldly with the more sparse yet equally cellular appearance of Philippa Blair's abstract watercolours. Here, multiple rhythmic strands of colour tangle against a plain white background, the gestural marks suggesting road maps or neural structures.

While Sandra Heffernan also creates pictorial surfaces, her works are collages, worked with fabric, most notably linen, and natural dyes. The artist's scenes imply stylised interpretations of moonlight on water. The specific nature of the materials used emphasises the artist's interest in sustainability and the relationship between the human and natural worlds.

Among these works are bronzes by Samantha Lissette and Marte Szirmay. Szirmay's intriguing medallion-like forms and strong "loose tied" bowl utilise the natural deep colour of the bronze, relying on form and line for their impact. By contrast, Lissette's miniature blooms and leaves are friendly, brightly hued pieces - though the artist does return to metallic tones for her cheekily swaggering bird miniatures.

By James Dignan