Art seen: July 16

“Black Halos 9”, by Neil Dawson
“Black Halos 9”, by Neil Dawson

''Negative Space'', Neil Dawson (Milford Galleries)

In art, the term ''negative space'' usually refers to areas of blank background used as a compositional tool to draw attention to the subject or instil some mood or emotion into the work.

In Neil Dawson's exhibition of this title, negative space is accomplished primarily through shadow.

Dawson's intricate three-dimensional pieces form a series of optical illusions.

The use of a plain, satiny black for his assemblies of iconographic haloes and assorted geometries deceives the eye into believing the works to be flat, yet they hang free from the wall.

It is the seemingly impossible shadows which reveal that there is more to the image than there seems at first glance.

The startling illusions are matched by the skill of their creation, the intricate steelwork as admirable for its craftsmanship as the finished sculptures are for their art.

The largest work in the exhibition draws a further connotation from the exhibition's title.

A darkened corner becomes a shrine, the object at its heart a black, velvety model of the spire of Christchurch's destroyed cathedral, seemingly in the act of falling.

No reflections emerge from its surface; the spire itself becomes a negative space in the exhibition, as its absence does in the heart of the Garden City.

This simple homage is both effective and very moving.


“Private School Pash”, by Rob McHaffie
“Private School Pash”, by Rob McHaffie

''Thirteen Drawings'' (Brett McDowell Gallery)

When Brett McDowell planned ''Thirteen drawings'', his intention was to present graphite and charcoal works by a host of different artists.

Though the 13 works presented all arguably have drawing-related qualities, one or two paintings have crept into the final mix.

The assembled images have a great range.

They include impressive pieces by Jason Greig and Barry Cleavin, both perhaps better known for their prints, as well as drawings by other McDowell regulars such as Patrick Hartigan and Kushana Bush.

More notably, the display includes a fine, busy composition by Jeffrey Harris, impressive pieces by Tony Fomison and Joanna Paul, and, to top things off, a marvellous 1930s work by Frances Hodgkins.

This work and the Joanna Paul piece next to it play off each other well, the Paul image bringing to mind many of Hodgkins' own paintings.

There is a lovely sense of flow around the gallery.

Though the works are in different styles and themes, each seems to fit perfectly within the exhibition and reflect well off the pieces around it.

Whether it be the sweet first kiss image by Rob McHaffie, the extreme perspective of Barry Cleavin's reclining figure, or Denise Copland's intricate nature study, all of the exhibition's jigsaw pieces fit perfectly into the display.


“Union in Division”, by James Bellaney
“Union in Division”, by James Bellaney
''Riders of the Storm'', James Bellaney (Moray Gallery)

James Bellaney is one of Dunedin's more intriguing artists. His large abstract works shy away from the monochrome used by many of his local peers; instead, Bellaney works in an exuberant palette of focal blues, reds and yellows.

Bellaney's latest exhibition at the Moray Gallery includes paintings which revel in the light and the dark of colour, providing a psychological roller-coaster from chaotic highs to sombre lows.

The works are almost topographical in their range, with many pieces, such as the vivid Union in Division, having the appearance of satellite views of an alien world.

This particular piece also display's the artist's willingness to allow his unconventional surfaces to enter the art, in this case the presence of a row of screw-heads indicating the nature of the old board upon which the work is painted.

Bellaney sees the works as a way to explore his subconscious.

His apparent landforms thus share something in common with the alien terrains depicted by some surrealist artists, and several of his pieces (such as Start of the Remains and Remains of the Renewal) have a vague Ernst-like quality.

While in some hands such pieces could be seen as simple splashes of colour, Bellaney has effectively created works which have presence and weight, and which continue his art practice very effectively.

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