Art Seen: February 20th

In this week's Art Seen, Laura Elliott looks at exhibitions from duo Madeleine Child and Mandy Gargiulo, Richard Parsons, and Milford Galleries.


Marina Ballerina by the Sea, by Mandy Gargiulo
Marina Ballerina by the Sea, by Mandy Gargiulo
‘‘Surface’’, Madeleine Child and Mandy Gargiulo (Gallery Thirty Three, Wanaka)

Beneath the surface of quiet waters lie mysterious worlds teeming with life. “Surface”, the joint exhibition of artists Madeleine Child and Mandy Gargiulo, is a playful execution of the marine theme — and a masterful study of surface texture in ceramic sculpture.

Like a little dancer twirling in her frothy tutu, Gargiulo’s Marina Ballerina by the Sea is piquant and charming, bursting with personality. Every delicate petal and frond of the work is shaped and applied by hand, and with the colour palette kept to a cool, natural white, the focus is entirely on the textural variations.

The vessel is porous and sponge-like, as if the porcelain has been weathered by the elements, worn away by saltwater. Every piece in the collection might have been plucked straight from the sea — elegant vases taken over and turned into a home for the aquatic creatures that surround them.

Child’s coral Clumps are a perfect juxtaposition to Gargiulo’s sculptures. The tubular structures appear to be caught in motion, as if waving gently back and forth with the tide, their circular ends opening and closing, and frilling like small pink flowers.

Child’s work always has a sense of whimsy and fun, delighting in the unexpected, which is represented here with the addition of a few pieces of incredibly life-like, oversized Popcorn.


Afternoon Shadows, Dunstan Range (detail), by Richard Parsons
Afternoon Shadows, Dunstan Range (detail), by Richard Parsons
“Timeless Vistas”, Richard Parsons (Eade Gallery, Clyde)

The light over Waikerikeri Valley touches the rolling hills with a golden glow, sending shadows scattering down to the plains below. On his Central Otago farm, painter Richard Parsons draws inspiration from the land and natural wonders that surround him, casting that beauty on to canvas, capturing moments fleeting and everlasting.

No second in time will ever be repeated, the land will never again look exactly as it does from one minute to the next, but here in paint, it will exist in perpetuity. Parsons deliberately omits any human presence from his scenes, presenting the landscape as it is now, as it might have been a hundred years ago, as one hopes it might remain many decades into the future.

The treatment of light throughout the collection is notable. Parsons has a deft and delicate hand, building layer upon layer of small detail that collates into an impressive whole. Whether in the rising warmth of dawn or the dusky stillness of twilight, every scene welcomes the viewer in, pulling the eye forward across the fields, or the stretch of a river bank, or along a winding road into the mountains.

The same terrain can appear drastically different as the sun moves in both the painted and the real sky. The canvases are left unglazed so that they absorb the light and alter in appearance from every angle.


Florasphere, by Neil Dawson
Florasphere, by Neil Dawson
“The Earl Street Journal”, Group Show (Milford Galleries, Queenstown)

“The Earl Street Journal” exhibition brings together pieces by some of the country’s best artists, including earlier examples of their evolving styles as well as very recent additions to the collection. Sculpture is always strongly represented in this show, and the 2020 edition is no exception.

Neil Dawson’s Florasphere is one of the artist’s finest stainless steel constructions — a deceptively delicate globe of interconnected metal flowers and leaves, cleverly designed to cast shadows and change tone in the shifting light. It’s so intricately wrought it might have been cut from paper.

In cast glass, Christine Cathie’s blue and green Surge is a smoothly-rendered study of motion and light, using negative space to focus the attention on the inner shape.

The paintings are executed equally well, with an emphasis on landscapes, in a wide variety of styles. Under a dramatic sky, Dick Frizzell’s Alexandra Morning is a shadowed silhouette instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with the region, the treetops a jagged line against the sun rising through the looming clouds.

From the stillness of dawn to the frenzied forces of nature, Neil Frazer’s The Breaks Study brings vigour and chaos as waves crash and churn violently against the rocks. Frazer uses thick, glossy sweeps and dabs of colour, the raised edges of paint seeming to leap off the canvas as if the water is rushing forth.

-By Laura Elliott

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