Art Seen: August 08

In this week's Art Seen, Laura Elliott looks at exhibitions from Gail de Jong, Gallery Thirty Three, and the Rippon Hall.


Where my heart lies, by Gail de Jong
Where my heart lies, by Gail de Jong
''The Nevis'', Group Show (Hullabaloo Art Space, Cromwell)

Remote, awe-inspiring and beautiful, the Nevis Valley lies nestled in the towering shadow of snow-capped mountains, a hidden vista of tussocky hills, rocky banks and winding waters.

To walk the trails is to step back in history, and the artists of the Hullabaloo collective have drawn on that atmosphere, that legacy, in ''The Nevis'' exhibition. Works like Lorraine Higgins' Nevis Evening capture the vastness of the land, and the poignant echo of those who went first.

Painter Gail de Jong's stunning Where my heart lies positions the viewer to look down at a winding golden trail, leading the eye and mind into the distance, where the mountains loom and the unknown awaits.

With its grainy surface texture, the canvas might have been formed from the rocky terrain it depicts. In Ro Bradshaw's Overview Nevis, the endless serenity of the sky is scattered with a fine gold dust, as if reflecting the gold-mining routes below, and the presence of two circling birds only emphasises the sense of isolation.

Ceramicist Robert Franklin conjures imagery of the miners' dredge pools with his Stoneware Bowls, their ombre blue depths drawing the viewer in, like standing at the edge of water, unsure whether treasure or danger lies beneath the smooth surface. From the paintings to the sculptures to the jewellery, this is an impressive, memorable show, with every piece evocatively and skilfully executed.


Strong, by Cristina Popovici
Strong, by Cristina Popovici
''Selected Works'', Cristina Popovici, Melissa Young, and Di Tocker (Gallery Thirty Three, Wanaka)

The indirect theme of communication ties together many disparate works at Wanaka's Gallery Thirty Three this month. Cristina Popovici explores written and visual language, through the incorporation of words and letters, and the use of colour. We all attach different emotions and connotations to colours, and Popovici delves into that with her exuberant abstractions.

She blends pastels with darker hues, splashing and slashing layers of paint across the picture plane, and happily ignores any traditional ''rules'' about harmonious tones. Some of the works promote deeper reflection; others are joyful and light and chaotic.

Sculptor Melissa Young's delightful bronze figures tell a tale of human love, curiosity and endeavour. With deceptively simple lines, the figures reach out with elongated limbs - grasping for each other, for the viewer, for some unknown goal. They have no visible facial features, yet their body language is wonderfully expressive.

Di Tocker's colourful cast glass Shelfies are completely different in form and medium, yet convey that same sense of humanity and emotion, displaying vulnerability with merely a crossed arm and intimacy in two tilted heads.


Fantail, by Luke Anthony
Fantail, by Luke Anthony
''Indigo Artists group show'', Indigo Artists (The Rippon Hall, Wanaka)

The Indigo Artists' group show is an eclectic mix of excellent works in a stunning location, and the pieces come together to create a fascinating narrative. Rachel Hirabayashi's Growth Fault and Valley Central set a dramatic, atmospheric tone, as ominously dark skies filter down into barren landscapes, ink dripping like dancing shadows.

Nigel Wilson introduces human figures into his Arrowtown River Walk canvases, to superb effect. Following behind their shadowy outlines, the viewer feels the tension of the story unfolding within, the apprehension over what might happen next. There is always a palpable energy to Wilson's brushstrokes, which creates a sense of stepping into the scene.

Luke Anthony's beautiful, inquisitive little Fantail sculpture perches on his driftwood branch, overseeing the visitors walking past, head tilted and eyes alert, as if he might take flight at any moment.

More stylised in design but equally full of character, Jillian Porteous' Bird Totems gather in a solemn conclave, while Annemarie Hope-Cross' Settler Woman stands sombre and alone in her frame, a ghostly form, like an echo of the past captured on paper.

-By Laura Elliott

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