Art Seen: February 21

In this week's Art Seen, Laura Elliott looks at exhibitions from Gallery 33, Neville Porter, and Annemarie Hope-Cross.


Give Me Shelter, by Thomas Hancock
Give Me Shelter, by Thomas Hancock
''Go Figure'', various artists (Gallery Thirty Three, Wanaka)

The human body comes in many shapes and sizes and, in the collaborative exhibition ''Go Figure'', it's represented in a variety of techniques and media, from the gloriously textural abstraction of Cristina Popovici's The Three Graces series to Julie Butler's exquisite sculpture Drawing Grace and John Oxborough's charcoal study of form and movement, Two Figures.

Meredith Marsone combines the figurative and the abstract, with particularly haunting effect in Fracture/Memory, which shatters the composition into shards, as a figure with bleak eyes seems to recall an intimate memory and then move her head, trying to escape the pain and dispel the thoughts.

Jane Mitchell's figures are equally evocative, with the slightly hazy quality of a dream or memory. There is a tension to her work, a sense of lurking danger and melancholy. Figures turn to look out of the canvas, confronting the viewer, forcing them to acknowledge their own part in the scene rather than maintain the comfort of just being a distant observer.

Thomas Hancock's neatly-detailed paintings are everyday slices-of-life, like the young family dressed for a casual day out in Give Me Shelter. We don't actually know where they are, however, or what might happen to them next, as Hancock cleverly strips away any surrounding detail that would give context to the scene, but distract the eye from the figures. By placing his subjects on a monochromatic background, he invites closer scrutiny and speculation.


A View At Every Corner, by Neville Porter
A View At Every Corner, by Neville Porter
''East Meets West'', Neville Porter (Eade Gallery, Clyde)

Neville Porter's photography has a timeless and ephemeral quality. He manages to encapsulate the vastness and majesty of a landscape within a single image, yet in the small details - the exact glide and glow of the sunlight along the hills, the shadows cast across an icy lake by the skeletons of trees, or a glimpse of humanity in a passing car or tracks in the sand - you also feel very strongly the truth that this is one moment in time, a ghost of which has been captured in the photograph, but otherwise passed into history, never to be exactly repeated again.

There is a very different mood in each work, from the cool, silver-toned serenity of the wintry Too Early To Skate to the wildness and grandeur of A View at Every Corner, a scene in which the human presence is shown to be so very vulnerable and small against the scope of the environment, and the more intimate Memories, where an empty swing seems to carry the echo of laughter and the creaking of branches above.

The photographs are printed on washi paper, the making of which Porter studied in Japan. The process of perfectly transferring the coloured ink to the washi is difficult and intricate, and results in an appropriately one-off print that could never be identically replicated.


Earth Music (detail), by Annemarie Hope-Cross
Earth Music (detail), by Annemarie Hope-Cross
''Floral Notes'', Lynne Wilson and Annemarie Hope-Cross (Hullabaloo Art Space, Cromwell)

''The earth has music for those who listen.'' The quote by philosopher and writer George Santayana appears in Annemarie Hope-Cross' Earth Music, a fold-out book of her remarkable cyanotype prints, and a key piece in the current exhibition ''Floral Notes'', but the meaning behind the words runs through the entire collection.

Hope-Cross has joined ceramic artist Lynne Wilson to focus on the history and language of plants in Central Otago, the stories they tell and the importance they play in human life - and the emotions they can inspire, for those who take the time to really see, experience and hear the melody of the living world around them.

Hope-Cross has incorporated sheet music into her ''cameraless photography'' and captured imagery of endangered plants that we take for granted, with the properties of the flower reflecting the tone of the music, be it bold and dramatic, or light and haunting.

Wilson also weaves a story with her ceramic sculptures that traces the historical paths of plantlife in the region: the Kowhai Trail, the Gold Trail, where miners from the California goldfields inadvertently scattered poppy seeds from their boots as they traversed the landscape, and the Wine and Honey Trails, such a key part of our commercial industry. All the works are beautiful and complex, and with every closer look, new shapes and textures and intricate details emerge.

-By Laura Elliott

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