Art Seen: April 20

In this week's Art Seen, Laura Elliott looks at a joint exhibition from Karl Maughan and Chris Charteris, plus works from Gail de Jong, and Janette Cervin.

 

Putiputi Kohatu, by Chris Charteris
Putiputi Kohatu, by Chris Charteris
Karl Maughan/Chris Charteris (Milford Galleries Queenstown)

In a joint exhibition, the exuberant bursting colour of Karl Maughan's floral paintings is contrasted with the serenity and precision of Chris Charteris' rock sculptures: one collection speaking of sunlight and fragrance and birdsong, the other inviting deep reflection and spiritual awareness. Yet in both instances there is the sense of an individual communicating and interacting with nature, leaving their mark but also acknowledging it as a powerful and independent force.

Maughan's canvases are joyously bold and bright, offering their vivid rainbow palette to the viewer without restraint, and the effect can be quite startling amidst more monochromatic works.

They could be viewed simply as idyllic scenes of lush, blooming, well-tended gardens, but there is an underlying tension to the work, with the use of shadow and perspective creating the feeling that the profusion of bushes are edging forward and drawing together into an encircling barrier. Nature here has been cultivated to suit a human purpose, but has not ceded control.

Charteris' work draws on Maori, Pacific and European cultural influences to chart a personal journey of exploration, but also opens a dialogue with the viewer, encouraging them to form their own connection with the resulting patterns.

Every carved line appears to have been made with unhesitating purpose but also an intense respect for the source material; the surface of the stone is marked with a map of the artists movements, but gives the impression that Charteris worked with nature rather than imposing his vision upon it.

 

The Three Tenors, by Gail de Jong
The Three Tenors, by Gail de Jong
‘‘The Magpies Said’’, Gail de Jong (Hullabaloo Art Space, Cromwell)

Inspired by Denis Glover's iconic poem, Gail de Jong's latest collection pays homage to The Magpies: birds intrinsically bound with superstition and myth, danger and omens, yet possessing an enduring ability to survive against the odds as in the poem, where time passes, human generations age and fall victim to financial hardship, property changes hands and the seasons roll by, but the magpies continue their unique, unmistakable song.

De Jong's distinctive style melds perfectly with the subject matter, presenting the stark yet beautiful landscapes with their black-and-white feathered inhabitants circling cloudy skies, observing and guarding their land.

De Jong uses old rusted drum lids as canvases, incorporating raw materials to add depth and meaning, and applying colour so judiciously that the images seem to emerge organically from the weathered metal, the circular shapes acting as windows on to ageless scenes.

In The Three Tenors, the trio of birds sing to a land apparently devoid of other life, while the impressive Evening Song and Evening Aria represent the evening sky, the rapid passing of another day and the hope for a renewed dawn.

The three monochromatic prints, created using the remains of a magpie found on de Jong's property, reference the more ominous connotations of the birds and the startling colour juxtaposition between their shadowy forms and the ground over which they swoop.

 

Floral Fantasia, by Janette Cervin
Floral Fantasia, by Janette Cervin
‘‘In the Garden of Excess’’, Janette Cervin and ‘‘New Works’’, Kiya Nancarrow (Gallery Thirty Three, Wanaka)

Janette Cervin has temporarily transformed Wanaka's Gallery Thirty Three into an enchanted garden, with a collection of works that seem to capture the attention of every person who visits the space. Painting on metal and layers of resin, Cervin combines realism and surrealism with effortless ease, crowding her picture plane with a rich tapestry of birds, butterflies and flowers that would not bloom together in nature but flourish in abundance in this imaginative world.

The light reflecting off the resin adds to the internal glow of the pieces, but Cervin's handling of colour produces such luminosity and richness that it acts as its own spotlight. That intensity and harmony invests pieces such as Floral Fantasia and Luscious Blooms with an almost unearthly beauty.

The layering technique creates a complicated perception of depth, as if with some works it would be possible to step into the scene and become enveloped by the depicted gardens, while others appear as if everything is clustering as far forward as possible, pushing out from the surface.

Equally impressive are Kiya Nancarrow's coiling and curling ribbons of ceramic art that seem to be caught in a perpetual state of motion, a concept of continuous energy that was informed by Nancarrow's training as a Buddhist psychotherapist.

The works are designed successfully to keep the viewers' eye constantly cycling around the shape, without attempting to focus on a definitive beginning or end.

-By Laura Elliott

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