Art seen: February 26

“Port de Saint Tropez”, by Paul Signac
“Port de Saint Tropez”, by Paul Signac

''Parallel Play'', Frances Hodgkins and her contemporaries (Dunedin Public Art Gallery)

The latest exhibition in the Frances Hodgkins wing of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery is a clever assemblage of works by Hodgkins, each paired with a piece by one of her contemporaries.

The juxtaposition of these artworks is intended to show similarities and differences in styles, and the cross-fertilisation of ideas within Hodgkins' milieu.

The exhibition is effective in these aims, and provides a fine indication of where Hodgkins sat within the field of European art, and also how her art adapted to that of her contemporaries.

Europe in the early 20th century was a time of great artistic upheaval.

Many art movements saw their birth in an explosion of creative inventiveness.

Hodgkins, not only a fine painter but also a thorough student of art, experimented with many genres and techniques from a wide variety of these movements.

The comparison of her paintings with those of her peers gives a clear indication of how well she took these ideas to heart.

Of particular interest are a series of four works relating to boats at rest: two by Hodgkins and one each by Paul Signac and Rhona Haszard.

Other works, ranging from Lucien Pissarro's post-impressionism to Georges Braque's loosely structural cubism show the range of styles with which Hodgkins was adept.


 

“Waking Up to the Obscurity People”, part II, by Andy Leleisi'uao
“Waking Up to the Obscurity People”, part II, by Andy Leleisi'uao

''Show and Tell'' (Milford Galleries Dunedin)

''Show and Tell'', the current group exhibition at the Milford, is a deliberate counterpoint to Robert Ellis' exhibition, which is being shown concurrently.

The work of six artists is presented, each infused with a sense of traditional New Zealand symbol and mythology.

Media range from etched rock to lustrous photographs on aluminium.

Lisa Reihana's deep, mythic photographs shine with an intense darkness, simultaneously welcoming and menacing.

They sit well alongside an epic painting by John Walsh, The Departure Lounge, with its images of journeys through a spirit world.

This work is one of the true stars of the show.

Andy Leleisi'uao's paintings draw on mythology from around the world to create a highly personal symbolic narrative.

Alongside these works are a series of exquisite pieces of cast glassware by Mike Crawford, their koru patterning transforming otherwise pristine, lustrous surfaces.

Chris Bailey's mute sentinel carvings and Chris Charteris' oversized necklace forms bookend the show.

Their apparent simplicity is deceptive. Charteris' stonework is both Polynesian carving and rosary, its forms speaking of the meeting of Pacific and European culture.

Bailey's totems, with their meticulous carving, honour the legendary waka of the Great Fleet.


 

“Castles in the Air”, by Kirsty Warman
“Castles in the Air”, by Kirsty Warman

''Castles in the Air'', Kirsty Warman (The Artist's Room)

Kirsty Warman's large-scale expressionistic portraits and ink explorations of pattern and form adorn the walls of The Artist's Room.

While at first viewing the two series of works do not appear closely connected, the patterns from the pen drawings force their way into the flamboyant colours of the paintings.

The ink drawings show an obsessive intimacy, and are fascinating in their surrealistic detail.

Warman's artist statement talks of her art striving to free itself from traditional and historic conventions, but this aim can never be totally achievable.

All art draws inspiration from earlier work, and Warman's portraits have many of their antecedents in early 20th-century German, or more precisely Austrian, expressionism.

In the patterns and poses of Castles in the Air and Nothing to Say, Girl Interrupted, the ghosts of Klimt, Grosz, and Schiele peer out.

Warman does, however, imbue these works with her own strength.

The figurative work shifts in and out of the rhythmic abstraction from the ink designs as the artist strives towards her own painterly statement.

There is a bold confidence in the application of paint and in the deliberate reduction of background to a bare minimum from which the faces loom in all their stark, multi-hued glory.

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