Art seen

<i>Untitled (Rose and Violet Torso), </i> by Joanna Margaret Paul.
<i>Untitled (Rose and Violet Torso), </i> by Joanna Margaret Paul.
"Joanna Margaret Paul" (Brett McDowell Gallery)
The Brett McDowell Gallery is showing a fascinating collection of art and film by the late Joanna Margaret Paul, with much of the work focusing on her drawings, still life, landscape and watercolours.

Paul's delicate and often sparing use of colour and line is clearly demonstrated in an untitled work which focuses on a figure reflected in a mirror.

Several black lines define the mirror itself, with blocks of coloured pencil in red and brown emphasising the reflected figure.

In this and other work, much of the page is left blank and it is clear that Paul relied on the use of space as much as line in constructing forms - absence becomes presence. Her watercolours are also applied sparingly and thoughtfully, giving a feminine edge to her work. Although understated, paint is applied with certainty as seen in her beautiful work Untitled (Rose and Violet Torso). Here, she is not afraid of colour - tones of pinks, red and purples merge to create a form that is enhanced by essential lines only, inviting the viewer to contemplate further.

Clearly, Paul's interest lay in the world around her. Household objects, flower gardens, figures, houses, power lines, the humps and bumps of the landscape, were all subjects of interest for Paul, both in her movie-making and in her art.

<i>Explosion</i>, by James Bellaney.
<i>Explosion</i>, by James Bellaney.
"Tohunga ta whakaahua whenua", by James Bellaney (Mint Gallery)
Dunedin artist James Bellaney is displaying a series of abstract works at Mint Gallery in Moray Pl.

The exhibition, titled "Tohunga ta whakaahua whenua", meaning "landscape painter", consists of work varying in size, but it is the large-scale canvases that attract the eye.

Bellaney's work is stylistically reminiscent of neo-expressionism - appearing spontaneous but carefully controlled. Although the paintings do have some compositional structure, they are ardently concerned with paint and colour.

The canvases are covered in thick layers of acrylic house paint that is applied with little mixing before they reach the picture surface. It appears to be methodically moved across the working space by means of splashing, staining and dripping. Signs of brushwork and thick, cracked paint add a tactile and visual excitement to Bellaney's work. In Marshlands these techniques are particularly obvious on closer inspection.

Titles such as Explosion encourage feelings of dynamism and spontaneity. Painted in mainly reds, yellows and blues, a swirling, curvilinear motion is shaped, suggesting a cosmic element to the artwork. Other work, such as Storm, is more geographical. Painted in a sombre colour palette, this moody work appears to be influenced by the weather, creating feelings of a rugged and wild landscape that evoke feelings of the sublime.

<i>Happy Anniversary</i>, by Caroline McQuarrie.
<i>Happy Anniversary</i>, by Caroline McQuarrie.
"Artifact", by Caroline McQuarrie (Blue Oyster Gallery)
Wellington-based mixed media artist Caroline McQuarrie examines the combination of craft-based practices and photography in contemporary art with both mediums having highly sentimental connotations due to their links with memory.

With "Artifact", McQuarrie examines how mechanical mass-production can destroy what is loved, treasured and memorialised.

The exhibition consists of five digital photographic images of mass-produced objects that have been made to look like the hand-made.

Each image is unique due to movement during the scanning process resulting in a blurring and distortion of the image, but due to its digital nature they can be endlessly reproduced. By reproducing these images on the scanner, a parallel is drawn between the objects and the process.

The style of the objects, possibly cushions and doilies, all mimic hand-embroidery - each one is decorated with text that aims to reinforce domesticity and the "happy home" stereotype. Messages include, "Happy Anniversary", "A Home is a House With Love", "King of the Castle", "Lady of the Manor" and "True Friends".

However homely they may seem, mechanical mass-production of image and object has the ability to wipe away anything personal.

- Written by Julie Jopp.


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