Art seen: July 23

Kotakitanga (Shared Guardianship), by Janette Cervin
Kotakitanga (Shared Guardianship), by Janette Cervin
"A True Story", Janette Cervin

(Gallery Thirty Three, Wanaka)

LIKE windows into magical scenes of jewel-toned birdlife and lushly-blooming flowers, Janette Cervin’s paintings are always a spectacular homage to New Zealand’s flora and fauna. Cervin works with large aluminised surfaces and layer upon layer of poured resin, juxtaposing the industrial with the intensely romantic. More detail is added after every additional layer of resin, creating an incredible three-dimensional depth. As the artist states, the process captures petals, leaves and feathers between the resin much like the preservation of fossils in nature, catching moments in time, keeping them forever.

Standing in front of each piece, it’s as if you could reach out and push aside a branch, touch the ghostly petals of the flowers beyond, send the curious-eyed birds into flight, hear the distant burble of a waterfall. There is both a timelessness and an immediacy to the works — they draw you into the natural world, remind you of the incomparable beauties to be found on our land. This collection, unlike previous works, incorporates glimpses of human industry — signage, an abandoned digger. Cervin produced the pieces during lockdown, in a period when our streets emptied and the concept of time changed, and our collective focus turned to our own shores, to domestic tourism. Suddenly, we were seeing sights anew, and cherishing things we might previously have taken for granted.

Far Flung Land, by Simon Edwards
Far Flung Land, by Simon Edwards

"Into Thin Air", Simon Edwards

(Milford Galleries, Queenstown)

Clouds swirl around craggy rock, rising high against the mysterious, mirrored depths of the lakes. Over brooding slashes of black paint and creeping shadow, the careful application of bright, bold colour invests Simon Edwards’ landscapes with a dream-like quality. There is always a cinematic grandeur to his work, a sense of vast majesty, heightened by the encompassing mist and the polychromatic glow — the orange-red and yellow that light up the hilltops, like a photograph catching a flash of lightning, and the occasional splash of particularly effective purple. It’s a spectacular handling of texture and tone, investing everything with life and atmosphere. There’s a sense of recent rainfall, with waters high, the bush lush and teeming with life, and works such as Far Flung Land dusted with a perpetual rainbow.

The scenes tend to be inspired by the waters and peaks of the South Island rather than a replication of an exact view, which adds to that feeling of walking into a story book, a dramatic fictional narrative, but underscores the experience with the comfort of the familiar. Every landscape feels like a place you might go, terrain you might once have walked. Edwards’ style works extremely well on a larger scale, but the selection of smaller panels are among the most memorable of the works, awash with colour and irresistibly beckoning for a closer look.

Arrowtown Spring, by Mary Mai
Arrowtown Spring, by Mary Mai

"Arrowtown Art Union Exhibition", various artists

(Lakes District Museum & Art Gallery, Arrowtown)

In an extraordinary year, it’s a pleasure to see new works by so many artists in the "Arrowtown Art Union Exhibition", curated by the Arrowtown Creative Arts Society.

Susan Cleaver’s composite photography is striking, imbued with a hint of the surreal, like stepping into a film set with ultra-crisp colour saturation, both beautiful and slightly ominous. Paul Rea’s Iceberg captures nature in its essence — dramatic and miraculous, with the potentiality for danger if not approached with respect.

In Ro Bradshaw’s paintings, the focal point in vast landscapes are the shadows of lone soaring birds. Bradshaw is adept at taking a limited colour palette and creating an intense sense of atmosphere; in the blurred abstraction of Flight Series, it feels like winter, the rigid cold and the isolation of the bird’s journey resonating from the canvas.

It’s a transition in seasons with the vibrant fun of Bridget Paape’s Pink Poppies and the highly textural blooms of Mary Mai’s Arrowtown Spring and The Garden of Roses. Mai uses thick impasto brushstrokes to spectacular three-dimensional effect; her fields of flowers explode in lush profusion across the canvas, a welcome reminder that the darkest and coldest of days will always be followed by the budding of change and beauty.

With paintings, photography, ceramics and sculpture on offer, there are countless exhibits that should be seen and appreciated in person. The museum consistently hosts excellent group shows, and this is one not to be missed.

- Laura Elliott

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