Art seen: August 5

By James Dignan

Punakaiki, by Wayne Seyb.
Punakaiki, by Wayne Seyb.
"Water", Wayne Seyb

(Pea Sea Art)

There are two interrelated series of works in Wayne Seyb’s exhibition, "Water", at Pea Sea Gallery.

In the larger series of works, Seyb has presented rich, impressionistic coastal and riparian scenes built up from heavily impastoed oils. The artist’s bold use of paint gives the images a strong physical presence, and the almost frenzied use of colour implies the land and water as much as actually presenting it. In works like River Avon and Water of Leith, the scene is reduced almost to an abstraction, though in pieces such as Punakaiki, Karitane Postcard, and Huriawa the boundary between land and sea is presented in a vibrant solidity.

Seyb has a long-held fascination with environmental and ecological issues relating to the country’s water. As a sometime resident of Karitane, the artist is well aware of the water supply problems in the area in recent months. These problems have led the artist to create a series of works which seem diametrically opposed to his heavily daubed landscapes. In his Karitane Scrolls, Seyb has used ink on unstretched canvas, then left the pieces to be washed by river and tide. The resulting pieces show the interplay between the artist’s hand and the forces of nature, creating a series of thought-provoking abstracts.

Untitled Reclining Figure, by Suzanne Emslie.
Untitled Reclining Figure, by Suzanne Emslie.
"I Figure", Suzanne Emslie

(Koru Gallery)

Real women have curves. Such has been the case in art since at least the time of a neolithic sculptor in Willendorf, tens of thousands of years ago.

That long, long tradition is continued in the current exhibition at Koru Gallery, where Suzanne Emslie presents two series of voluptuous figures: sculptures in Oamaru stone, and ceramics in coloured clay. These three-dimensional works are accompanied by a series of chalk and graphite working sketches.

The clay works are intriguing in their use of two colours of clay, black and greyish white. These two materials have been left largely unglazed, allowing the natural tones to add detail to the figures. This is particularly effective in one work wfeaturing a dark-skinned woman in a formal white dress adorned with black flowers.

The Oamaru stone sculptures suggest their subjects rather than presenting photographically realistic figures. The natural warmth of the creamy stone and the use of simple flowing lines produce friendly yet anonymous shapely women. Emphasis is entirely on the forms and curves, with several of the figures having as much relation to landscape forms as to portraits. Accompanying these works are a series of plump bomb-like fantails, which add a gently humorous touch to the exhibition.

Standard 10 at St. Bathans, by Matt Gauldie.
Standard 10 at St. Bathans, by Matt Gauldie.
"Sam Foley, Inge Doesburg, Matt Gauldie, and Nico Madill" (The Artist’s Room)

A prosaically titled exhibition at The Artist’s Room presents work by four artists, Sam Foley, Inge Doesburg, Matt Gauldie, and Nico Madill. On paper it seems unlikely that their styles would work well together, yet the pieces on display do complement each other very well.

Sam Foley is known for his night cityscapes and bush scenes, and it is the latter which hold sway in the current exhibition. Most of the works are studies, painted in a loose painterly style which brings the bush to life. They contrast well with Foley’s larger Routeburn Road Forest II, which is one of the stars of the exhibition. Inge Doesburg presents several fine moody landscapes, with the land dripping under surly dark skies. More surprising are some charming dry point etchings of jugs of flowers by the same artist.

These works sit well alongside a series of works by Matt Gauldie which can best be described as character studies, not just of individuals but of the country itself. Where people do appear, as in The Home Stretch, both the subject and their surroundings are filled with narrative force.

Nico Madill’s quirky sculptural works complete the exhibition. Warm and often gently humorous, pieces such as Afraid of What We Love are icon-like pieces imbued with the artist’s own attractive symbolism.

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