Art seen: Art and science meet with ease

Motor Psycho, by Matt Gauldie.
Motor Psycho, by Matt Gauldie.
James Dignan reviews the 'Blend' exhibition at Rocda Gallery and new works by Greg Lewis, Matt Gauldie and Noel McKenna.

"Blend" (Rocda Gallery)  

Art and science are often thought to be two extremes - the opposite ends of a spectrum.

Yet the two meet and mix with surprising ease and beauty.

"Blend", an "Art-Sci exhibition", presents some good empirical evidence of the combination's effectiveness.

Eight artists have presented works which draw upon science for their basis or inspiration.

In the case of Catherine Cocker, the artist compares and contrasts the societal roles of science and religion with a large biological ark, a saviour ship in the form of a massive test tube rack.

Pete Gorman allows the technology to become the art in his installation, creating a feedback loop of video and light-sensitive audio equipment, semi-random patterns becoming the genesis for further semi-random patterns.

Sue Novell and Nicola Gibbons have created paintings based respectively on computer technology and biological slides, both of them to great effect.

Claire Beynon provides some of the strongest art in the exhibition with her series "Gulf", a response to the recent Gulf of Mexico oil-spill disaster.

The words in these pieces, taken from writers ranging from poet W. B. Yeats to scientist Lynn Margulis, perfectly complement Beynon's images.

Ecological crisis is also key to three fine photographic works by Laura Blake, made by coating canvas with handmade light-sensitive emulsion.

"Cross the line/New works", Greg Lewis and Matt Gauldie (The Artist's Room) 

There is an odd irony in the current joint exhibition at the Artist's Room.

Of the two exhibitors, one is perhaps best known for his images for cars; his paintings here are predominantly about war.

The other artist is an official war artist, yet his mixed-media works here are of gaudy pin-up girls.

Most of the works are by Greg Lewis.

Using found photographs as a basis, he presents scenes from the race track and either directly or indirectly reflecting the realities of war.

Few are action scenes, though when these are presented (as in Dust off, Afghanistan) they are powerfully achieved.

Several of the works become more poignant when their back story is known, as with an image of a West Point cadet reacting to President Obama's speech committing more troops to the Afghan conflict.

Matt Gauldie is strongly associated with military art in his role as official army artist.

Yet his works in this exhibition are only military by association; they depict the pin-ups displayed and treasured in barracks lockers.

The girls are raunchy and sleazy, but subtlety has never been the point with this type of art.

Gauldie cleverly uses paint, mirror glass, and metal - often recycled from found objects - to create his impressive lurid lovelies.

"29 centimetres closer", Noel McKenna (Brett McDowell Gallery) 

As with Greg Lewis, Noel McKenna makes use of photographic sources for his paintings.

His current exhibition contains eight new images showing gentle landscapes and roomscapes.

There is a wistful, nostalgic feel to many of the oil-on-board pieces, a feeling which comes in part from the play of light in the artist's soft palette and in part from the deliberate folk-art feel to the work.

Often, the range of colours has been reduced almost to a monotone, as in the case of Road, Northland 2.

Many of the paintings have been inspired either by photographs taken on trips to New Zealand by the Australian-based artist, or by images taken from online real estate advertisements.

The latter includes the exhibition's only interior scene, the wide-angle distortion of the clean living-room space typifying the standard images used by house-sellers.

The pictures are complemented by an interesting range of tiny ceramic works, which, despite occasional figurative features, are by and large abstract.

The exhibition's most unusual work, however, is a large map showing the locations of this country's thoroughbred racetracks.

This is the latest in a long series of works by McKenna in which he has created maps pinpointing the locations of specific types of landmark in both Australia and New Zealand.


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