Art seen: July 4

Amber Glow (Hereweka), by Peter McLaren.
Amber Glow (Hereweka), by Peter McLaren.
Light Impressions, Peter McLaren 

(Moray Gallery)

Peter McLaren’s "Light Impressions" comprise a series of coastal landscapes, scenes of Otago Peninsula and Fiordland.

The land is presented under crepuscular skies, with the fiery oranges of sunset, the deep blues and greens of dusk, and the pinks of frosty dawn predominating. While ostensibly studies of the land, the luminous sky is the subject of many of these works,  the hills and water simply providing reference points under the shimmering light of the air. While the peninsula works largely focus on the distinct cone of Hereweka, the Fiordland images are composites, more memories of scenes than specific places, though it is easy to imagine Mitre Peak among the steep-sided channels.

McLaren’s works are deceptively painterly in appearance, especially the first two Fiordland images. Deceptively, because all of the exhibition’s works are prints, although the textures (created from the uneven boards and gessoing of surfaces) gives several of them the distinct feel of paintings. Monotypes and monoprints are the order of the day, the latter using a combination of different printing plates and processes to excellent effect. 

Much of the process is shown in an accompanying video created by GPD Productions.

Though presented under the (accurate) guise of landscapes, it is the colour and light that are the most memorable features of these beautiful works.

"Renaissance Proportion", by Melvin "Pat" Day.
"Renaissance Proportion", by Melvin "Pat" Day.

(Dunedin Public Art Gallery)

During the middle decades of the 20th century, London was something of a Mecca for New Zealand artists looking to increase their training overseas. Many of the country’s finest artists travelled through the city, studying at institutions such as the Royal College of Art.

The Dunedin Public Art Gallery’s "Transitions" is an intriguing if loose assembly of work by New Zealand artists for whom London was a source of career inspiration. Using Bill Culbert’s moody, Cubism-inspired image of the industrial Thames as a starting point, the exhibition explores the work of artists ranging from Joanna Margaret Paul to Ralph Hotere, discussing the influence that London and its art schools had on the artists. There is a great disparity in media and style in the works, though there is a clear and pervasive feel of cutting-edge, state-of-the-art work of the 1950s and 1960s in the display.

Works are neatly arranged to provoke dialogues, with, for instance, John Drawbridge’s Rothko-esque print The Edge of Earth wryly reflecting both the brazen Billy Apple piece and more subtle Melvin Day work opposite it. So, too, works from Ralph Hotere seem to bridge the gap between the early Culbert painting opposite and more recent Culbert photographic work alongside.

Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) (still), by E-Line Media.
Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) (still), by E-Line Media.
"Waka Whetū" and "Whare Karioi" 

(Tūhura Otago Museum)  

Tūhura Otago Museum  has a dual exhibition in its Beautiful Science Gallery at present. "Waka Whetū" leads us on a journey to Matariki; alongside it, "Whare Karioi" takes us into the hinterland of cultural survival and modern technology.

"Waka Whetū" is an immersive display created by students of Otago Polytechnic, with guidance from local rūnaka. The work features both wall projections and short planetarium films which take the viewer on a tour through Māori mythology and the stars. The tikanga is well presented and entertaining, and is both appropriate and welcome at this time of year.

"Whare Karioi" is a display of the use of video game technology and concepts to continue and preserve the traditions and taoka of indigenous peoples from around the world. Ranging in style from action-adventure to endless runner, the games are predominantly aimed at younger players — understandable given that it is the young who are more readily able to soak in information about customs and culture, especially when presented in a fun form.

Cultures represented range from the Sami people of northern Scandinavia to New Zealand Māori, by way of Alaska and Puerto Rico, and offer a fascinating glimpse into both the culture of the peoples and how play is being used to teach traditional lore.

By James Dignan