Art seen

<i>Piopiotahi,</i> by Anna Reid
<i>Piopiotahi,</i> by Anna Reid
''The 29th Autumn Festival Art Exhibition'', Lakes District Museum and Gallery, Arrowtown

Under the discerning eye of the guest artist, Dunedin printmaker Anna Reid, the annual Autumn Festival art exhibition opened last Friday night in Arrowtown.

The event is a showcase of Otago talent and invites work from professionals and amateurs. Reid's own work, including the particularly beautiful drypoint print Piopiotahi, sets the standard for an overall impressive collection.

There are more than 150 separate artworks on display, representing painters, sculptors, embroiderers, potters, jewellers and photographers. Painted canvases outnumber, but by no means outshine, their mixed media neighbours, among which standouts include Olaf Mengeringhausen's brutally beautiful sculpture The Miner II, Danny Moorwood's glazed ceramics and Marie Velenski's jewellery.

Among the dozens of paintings are the warmth and charm of Ping Wang's Where Arrow River Flows - Longing, Jacquie Buick's intriguing The Remarkables, Rachel Hirabayashi's deceptively simple Lighthouse Series, and Peter Jackson's startlingly jewel-toned watercolours. This is not a community exhibition defined by mere competence, and most attempts to distinguish the novices from the more seasoned players would prove difficult.

The exhibition runs until May 12.

<i>Cool West Wind,</i> by Bruce Hunt
<i>Cool West Wind,</i> by Bruce Hunt
''Bruce Hunt: The Longest Road'', Milford Galleries Queenstown

Bruce Hunt is among the most celebrated of New Zealand's contemporary landscape artists and about two seconds after entering a room full of his canvases, the reason is blatantly obvious. Many painters are capable of making a faithful reproduction of a natural scene, some able to do so with photographic clarity, but only a gifted few can transcend even that talent to produce two-dimensional images that seem as illusively real and almost more beautiful than the subject provided by nature.

Hunt traverses the sheep trails and old gold-mining paths of Central Otago on foot to find his subjects, but the final effect is definitely that of aerial photography. Standing surrounded by the light-glazed peaks and shadowed waters of works such as Morning Over Big Bend (2012/13) and Ohau and the Swan Lagoon (2012/13) gives the overwhelming impression of gazing through the windscreen of a light aircraft. Even the application of colour occasionally shimmers as if filtered through glass and slightly misted by distance, and the diagonals of the compositions draw the eye in rather than permitting a brief glance across their surface.

Hunt's works would individually dominate any space, but are collectively breathtaking, imbuing not a remote beauty upon the land, but a sense of familiarity and belonging. And when the views on the walls of a Queenstown gallery are better than those out the window, it says a great deal.

<i>Sunshine,</i> by Emma Butler
<i>Sunshine,</i> by Emma Butler
''Selected Artists'', (Art Bay Gallery, Queenstown)

New works by prizewinning local artists hang suspended from the ceiling of Queenstown's Art Bay Gallery in back-to-back lines, rather as if a superlatively talented class have just left their latest offerings out to dry in a well-appointed studio. The gallery has an unerring eye for selecting quality pieces and arranging them well; the current showing features a diverse range of artists, but the works complement as well as contrast one another.

Alan Waters and Emma Butler provide a touch of storybook whimsy: literally, in the case of Waters' A Flock of Books (2012), a minutely detailed painting of picture books taking to the sky with flapping covers and soaring pages, inspired by Albert Einstein's statement that ''Imagination is more important than knowledge''. Acclaimed illustrator Butler is known for her endearingly quirky designs and her work Sunshine is as warm and engaging as the title would suggest.

Nick Fedaeff's art often manages to be both intensely gripping and ever so slightly sinister, with pieces such as Boy and a Cloud and Dark Paradise no exception, while Deidre Copeland's always spectacular talent with portraits is on display with Place. Three of the most successful works are Des Robertshaw's sinuously abstracted Metropole and Kate Williamson's glorious dreamily toned Morning Voyage and Sea Drift.

- Laura Elliot. 



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