Art Seen: December 23

BY JAMES DIGNAN

Kopuku, by Karl Maughan.
Kopuku, by Karl Maughan.
North, Karl Maughan

(Milford Gallery)

Karl Maughan’s intense garden scenes provide a profuse and heady colour palette on the walls of Milford Gallery.

The artist’s painterly strokes suggest rather than directly depict the rhododendrons and other flowering shrubs which line the paths leading viewers into the paintings. Here, the colour overwhelms. Blue, pink, and yellow foliage covers the canvases, restrained only by stony pathways and distant mountains and sky.

The rough brushwork of the flowers in what otherwise seem pristine scenes allows the blooms to maintain a slightly wild air, contrasting with the seemingly manicured and formal garden layouts. This wildness leaves Maughan’s works balancing delightfully on the edge of unease. We should have nothing to fear in a well-kept garden, yet somehow the bushes seem to lurk. They encroach on the paths, and the walkaways’ destinations remain hidden. The distant blue mountains, flat against a solid blue sky, only seem to emphasise the unreality of the scenes. Those peaks are too distant, and will never be reached — we are trapped here in this floral maze. We are left in a form of heady limbo by the works. Do we remain, hypnotised by the blooms, or dare to follow the paths which can lead only further into the foliage?

Quag (Whakanewha), by Clive Humphreys.
Quag (Whakanewha), by Clive Humphreys.
Open Air, Clive Humphreys

(RDS Gallery)

If Karl Maughan provides the formal, landscaped garden, Clive Humphreys returns us to the natural world.

Best known for his monochrome drawings, the artist has taken the move into intensely coloured acrylics in "Open Air", a series of works based on the forest and meadow landscapes of Waiheke Island. Locals to the area talk of a purity of light and strength of colour which is unique to the place, and Humphreys has done a good job of capturing this in his art. The intensity of the yellows and greens dominates many of the works, structure being provided by the architecture-like tree branches and the shadows which they cast across the ground.

In other works, the brightness disappears to be replaced by the softer tones of bush-clad riverbanks. Overhanging branches and mangroves cast distorted shadows across the leaf-filled streams, the intense yellow-greens relegated yet ever-present in the background, as if to remind us that these dark depths hold little fear for the viewer, and that sunlight is just a few metres away.

Two panoramic images from close to the Tauranga Harbour top off the exhibition, giving us a comparison between the vibrancy of Waiheke’s vegetation and the softer, but somehow more reassuring colours of the rest of the land.

The Only Way Out of This is Through, by Georgette Brown.
The Only Way Out of This is Through, by Georgette Brown.
I See Mycelium/I Hear the Sound of Breaking Glass, Georgette Brown and Cello Forrester

(Blue Oyster Art Project Space)

In the Japanese artform kintsugi, broken objects are repaired with gold, making them more precious for the breaking and rebuilding process they have gone through.

Blue Oyster’s current exhibition is a form of psychological kintsugi for Georgette Brown. In the video piece A Bug’s Life, a poem explores the artist’s thoughts on the slow unravelling of a parent, the pieces being mentally put back together in a precious form by the artist. Complementing this is a dark but warm soundscape by fellow artist Cello Forrester. The small stained glass works within the exhibition also explore what can literally be made of the metaphorical "broken glass" mentioned the poem.

Brown has long been drawn to the forest as sanctuary, and to fungi in particular. Her obsession with mushrooms has become a motif in most of the works, be it the forest backdrop of the video, as background features of stained glass and mosaic, or in the larger-than-life "Fashion Fungi" which dot the art space.

It is perhaps the central painting/mosaic which deserves most attention, and points to a way forward from the self-imposed healing sanctuary. Against an optimist yellow sky hung with a sun-like ceramic flower, the title of The Only Way Out of This is Through points to a brave, but necessary truth.

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