Art Seen: February 28

In this week's Art Seen, James Dignan looks at exhibitions from Neil Frazer, Tom Voyce, and Martin Thompson.


The Breaks (study), by Neil Frazer
The Breaks (study), by Neil Frazer
''Roar'', Neil Frazer (Milford Gallery)

After several years of sumptuous images of mountain snows, Neil Frazer has returned to an earlier subject - the dynamic energy of the coastline. In doing so, he has also returned to images of Dunedin and its environs, albeit through a hazy lens of memory.

Frazer has recalled the coast from his time in Dunedin as 1992 Frances Hodgkins Fellow, and has produced from these memories a series of works which are sometimes strikingly accurate and at others alluringly familiar.

Using broad strokes of sienna and ochre acrylic, applied as heavy impasto, he has brought the land to life and, against this, he has added confident swathes of roiling blue-green and white water.

The reduced palette of orange-browns, blue-greens and whites allows the viewer to focus on the forms of the rugged land and sweeping water, enhancing the feeling of the power of nature.

These features stand out all the more in contrast with the deliberate flatness of a white sky which is more an impression than a reality, as if land and sea have been extracted from reality for study.

A new feature to the works is the addition of ray-like bands of spray which, along with the lines of the rock and waves, channel the viewer's attention into the scenes.


High Street, Dunedin, by Tom Voyce
High Street, Dunedin, by Tom Voyce
''In Transit - A Sense of Place'', Tom Voyce (The Artist's Room)

Tom Voyce is a young British artist who has gained considerable attention in his homeland after winning the major Sky Art Landscape Artist of the Year prize in 2017. Currently in New Zealand for a series of residencies, he has turned to Dunedin as his most recent subject matter.

Voyce's style is heavily reminiscent of mid-20th century artists who were juggling the opposing styles of abstract expressionism and figurative realism. Artists such as Richard Diebenkorn, and to a lesser extent Edward Hopper and the earlier Wayne Thiebaud, were taking the abstract concerns of colour, geometry, and markmaking and applying them to townscapes and landscapes.

Voyce has followed in those footstems, and has created a series of images of Dunedin which hover at the edge of recognition, while allowing features such as the fall of light and powerful perspective lines to create an airy dynamism. His favourite subjects - transit points such as roadways, rail lines, and runways - are readily suited to this style.

Voyce works on a small scale, his images often being no more than A4 in size. Horizontal and vertical flashes of paint mark arbitrary frames to the scenes, each of which effectively captures the essence of a scene without specifying its details.


Untitled (detail), by Martin Thompson
Untitled (detail), by Martin Thompson
''Six New Works'', Martin Thompson (Brett McDowell Gallery)

Martin Thompson has become well known for his highly detailed and mathematically complex artwork.

Thompson's geometric abstractions rely on advanced fractal theory (even discussing the mathematics quickly bogs down in such bewildering terms as Apollonian gaskets, nowhere dense sets, and automorphism) and yet the savant artist is readily able to do the calculations necessary to create his art. The result is a fascinating series of endlessly repeating and reducing patterns, all obsessively hand marked from Thompson's own calculations with a fine art marker on graph paper.

These striking creations of a mind which sees mathematics as clear as other people see photographs are breathtaking in their aesthetic patterning and also from the point of view of the sheer work which has gone into their creation.

Thompson has achieved a major breakthrough in his latest works. Until a few years ago, his images were restricted by the format of commercially bought graph paper. In recent exhibitions, he has been able to increase the size of his works by getting his grids commercially printed, but has only ever used white paper.

His latest works have, for the first time, moved into the realms of ink on coloured paper, the result being a set of startling works in deep green on a lemon yellow background.

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