Art Seen: April 25

In this week's Art Seen, James Dignan looks at exhibitions from Sakia Leek, Leanne Morrison, Garry Currin.

Early Telepaths 1, by Saskia Leek.
Early Telepaths 1, by Saskia Leek.
''Early Telepaths'', Saskia Leek (Dunedin Public Art Gallery)

At a cursory glance, Saskia Leek's ''Early Telepaths'' paintings appear facile, almost simplistic. Using pastel colours, the artist has created a series of semi-abstract works where the representational elements are rendered as simplified blocks and silhouettes.

This seeming simplicity is an illusion. The artist is toying with us. Study any of the works closely and new vistas open up.

Many of the works are palimpsests, the semi-erased marks of early workings deliberately left to challenge the finished images. Hidden forms lurk beneath the surface, like fish under the ice of a frozen lake.

The artist is also toying with the notion of the picture area. In images like Early Telepaths 6, shading creates an implication of a three-dimensional surface. In many of the paintings, the paint expands beyond the canvas area on to the frame, while new frame-lines are painted to create alternative frames for the work.

The idea of telepathy is that of communication by means other than the accepted senses. Leek's work leaves us with the uncanny feeling that there are meanings in the works that remain just out of reach.

The groupings of paintings, the repeated motifs of fruit and buildings, the layered paint and use of blocks of subtly different shades all seem like clues to some cryptic message.

 

Sixte, by Leanne Morrison
Sixte, by Leanne Morrison
''Adaptation'', Leanne Morrison (Milford Gallery)

Leanne Morrison's paintings explore the notions of movement through the use of strong geometric abstraction.

Her works, named for body positions in the sport of fencing, are each primarily composed of bold diagonal blocks of paint using a minimal palette of greys, blacks, and tones ranging through the red and yellow part of the spectrum.

While this form of abstraction, with antecedents stretching back to the Suprematist and De Stijl movements, is not usually considered a subtle style, Morrison has produced work which does well suit that adjective.

By limiting both the structure and colour of her works, the artist has allowed us to focus almost totally on the dynamic relationship between the diagonals.

The deliberate use of varying opacities and surfaces of paint creates a strong dynamic. What initially appears as a simple bold pattern becomes something far more than that with extended viewing.

The analogy to fencing is a telling one.

Fencing is warfare reduced almost to dance, and to a series of well-defined poses. It has become an abstraction of its origins, expressive both in terms of sudden movement and wary, restrained rest. So too, the geometrical abstracts of Leanne Morrison are simultaneously dynamic and edgily meditative, and an expressive reduction of reality into a series of well-defined minimalist forms.

 

Ptg, by Garry Currin.
Ptg, by Garry Currin.
''Atoms and Opinions'', Garry Currin (Milford Gallery)

Garry Currin has produced another impressive display of work in ''Atoms and Opinions''.

His work continues to straddle the line between abstraction and landscape, with the major elements of the work now moving strongly towards the latter.

The detail within the scenes is still deliberately vague, allowing the paintings to remain images of some fugue-state land, forever just out of grasp of the real world.

We are left with impressions of place, guided as much by our own mental processes as by the intentions of the artist.

Many of Currin's landscapes are drenched in rich tones, the two ''Late Fragment'' works in particular being as if frozen in amber.

The golden yellows and deep earthy browns have long been a hallmark of Currin's art, although now they are also tempered by the rich sky blue of Atoms and Opinions III.

Three of the works on display retain the artist's long-standing interest in monochrome works. These black and white paintings retain more of the abstract edge of Currin's earlier images.

The undoubted star of the show is a massive work on unstretched canvas, The Light of One Day: Untitled Approach, its 3m length depicting a dreamscape of New Zealand coastline foregrounded by blurring land, as if pictured from a moving glider skimming over the hilltops.

 

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