Art seen: August 27

“Waianakarua sunset II”, by Liz Abbott
“Waianakarua sunset II”, by Liz Abbott

''Nearby ...'', Liz Abbott (Koru Gallery)

Liz Abbott has launched a miniature retrospective at Koru with ''Nearby ...''.

The display consists of more than a decade's worth of landscapes and nature studies, mainly from around the artist's favourite haunting grounds around Doctors Point and Blueskin Bay.

The work is in a variety of styles and media, ranging from low-key charcoal and conte work from 2004 through to recent work, predominantly in oil on canvas.

The exhibition, originally designed to comprise one piece for each of the artist's 50 years, has swollen to almost 70 works, filling and overflowing Koru's display gallery.

It is interesting to see the progression in the artist's work over the years, and also to see where she has harked back occasionally to older themes and styles.

Strands develop or are dropped, in some cases only amounting to one or two works, in others finding resonance in earlier and later pieces.

Heavy impressionistic impasto dominates 2005 works, for instance, and experiments with painting on blocks and curved surfaces predominate in 2013.

Studies in shade and form, which dominate the excellent early charcoals, find reflection in recent studies of sunsets.

Most intriguingly, a window view of a lone boatshed becomes a recurring theme, guiding the viewer through Abbott's thoughtful art.


“Study of pink ground cover rose”, by Joe L'Estrange
“Study of pink ground cover rose”, by Joe L'Estrange

''New paintings'', Joe L'Estrange (Brett McDowell Gallery)

For an artist who has been part of the Dunedin art scene for so many years, it is perhaps surprising that exhibitions by Joe L'Estrange are such rare beasts.

This is no doubt in part due to the artist's reclusiveness, something which echoes in her work.

Joe L'Estrange's art has, if this is not a contradiction in terms, a studied naivete.

The world she depicts is realistic, but somehow flattened into a non-Euclidean space.

Perspective does exist, but almost as an afterthought, allowing the viewer to concentrate wholly on the artist's dense, almost Rousseau-like subjects.

There is a whole cosmos within the closely cropped garden images, the gaze repeatedly catching on a wealth of tiny unexpected details.

Flowers are lovingly depicted, but with an unjudgemental and almost brutal eye; these are not picture-perfect blooms, but are more startlingly believable for their natural imperfections.

The star of the show, however, is the feline watcher of the garden, prowling his windowsill, supervising and guarding his domain.

Though cats are a common subject in L'Estrange's art, there is only one present in this show, and, perversely, the artist's curiously flattened perspective, set against a more naturally drawn harbour view, renders him larger than life and twice as handsome.


“The goddess II”, by Meredith Marsone
“The goddess II”, by Meredith Marsone

''Meredith Marsone/A Carnival of Restraint'', Meredith Marsone and Peter McLaren (The Artist's Room)

The Artist's Room is displaying a joint exhibition by Meredith Marsone and Peter McLaren.

The artists' works are dramatically different, though they complement each other nicely.

McLaren's images are spartan yet warm still lifes, carefully composed such that the gently shaded empty backgrounds become important silent partners in the images.

The works well fit the artist's title for his half of the exhibition, ''A carnival of restraint''.

A fine example of McLaren's use of composition is The departure, its vanitas-like dead sparrow and egg framed against a bowl near the bottom of the frame.

The predominantly empty upper part of the image counterbalances this weight with a power-point: unexpected, banal, yet perfectly placed.

Alongside these works are Meredith Marsone's fine portraits, their life and colour a perfect foil for McLaren's more austere pieces.

Marsone's works show a strong influence from impressionism and Art Nouveau, and specifically the works of Klimt.

This is most evident in The secret garden, though even in the more stylised, abstracted forms such as The goddess II, this debt is clear.

Despite this, the works are strongly and deftly painted, and are original enough to be effective and captivating in their own right.

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