Art seen: June 6

You Can't Control The Wind, But You Can Adjust Your Sails, by Jane Shriffer. Photo: Gallery...
You Can't Control The Wind, But You Can Adjust Your Sails, by Jane Shriffer. Photo: Gallery Thirty Three
"Cheaper Than Therapy", Jane Shriffer and "Vessel", Alice Toomer

(Gallery Thirty Three, Wānaka)

Opening tomorrow evening, Jane Shriffer’s "Cheaper Than Therapy" and Alice Toomer’s "Vessels" present their very different styles, expressionistic abstraction juxtaposed against photo-realism, but both are masters at provoking an intense response from their audience. Their works seem to be an open-ended process — a profoundly personal, solo journey of creation, investing pieces of their own lives and experience with each flicker of a brush or scrape of a palette knife, before they turn the metaphorical page, for the viewer to make their own connections and continue the narrative.

Shriffer incorporates her characteristic technique of sweeping knife strokes and cascading blocks of colour; the confetti effect perfectly articulates the sense of both chaos and calm in life. So much can be thrown at you at once that it becomes a blur, a surrounding tornado of images, sounds, and emotions; at other times, the pieces fall gently into place and the sensation is softer, comforting. A number of dominant green shades lend a sense of grounding earthiness, the steadying effect of pressing your feet into the grass, taking a deep breath, and dancing through the ebbs and flows of fate.

Usually focusing on food items, natural and man-made, Toomer’s photo-realistic imagery is always staggeringly impressive and multi-layered. With the title drawing allusions to both the packaging of pieces like Anchovy Jars and the fishing boats that capture their contents, the cool simplicity of the background enhances the painstaking detail and the restrained drama of the arrangement.

Paletteye 3, (2022) by Sandro Kopp. Photo: Glenn Frei
Paletteye 3, (2022) by Sandro Kopp. Photo: Glenn Frei
"Studio 9A", group show

(Milford Galleries Queenstown)

From a maelstrom of brushstrokes, trails and splashes of colour, a painted eye looks out at the viewer, meeting our gaze with unflinching candour. Sandro Kopp’s Paletteye series is a very specific type of self-portraiture, narrowing its focus to the literal eye of the artist, and using Kopp’s old palettes as a canvas. Layers of paint residue surround that direct and thoughtful stare, a history of work swirling from the mind behind the eyes, like visual footprints, the scars and signposts of a long creative journey. The ingrained emotion alters very subtly between each piece, with the faintly vulnerable gleam of Paletteye 3 marking a different moment in time and place to the determined and rather confrontational glower of Paletteye 5.

Kopp is one of five featured artists in "Studio 9A", the first winter show at Queenstown’s Milford Galleries, which includes both paintings and Bridget Reweti’s stunning tintype photography. Historically, it was one of the first more widely accessible photographic processes; a thinly lacquered or enamelled sheet of metal was used for the chemical emulsion. While actually a photographic negative, a tintype will appear as a muted positive image against the dark background, with transparent areas showing as black. Capturing the delicate fronds and minute detail of plants native to the land around Otago Harbour, Reweti’s work prompts thoughts of both growth and loss, drawing on the power of negative space and absorbed light.

Smoking Bun, by Lizzie Carruthers. Photo credit: L Elliott
Smoking Bun, by Lizzie Carruthers. Photo credit: L Elliott
"Flaming Winter!", Hullabaloo Artists

(Hullabaloo Art Space, Cromwell)

A bright spark of warmth in the frosty landscape, the artist collective at Hullabaloo Art Space have come together for their annual winter group show. "Flaming Winter!" brings a theme of fire, warm undertones, and more than a dozen works that surround the viewer with feelings of wonder and connection.

Taking inspiration from Shakespeare’s Romeo, of "a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes", Jen Olson’s Turn Tears to Sparks of Fire is a stylised portrait, a figure with slightly fragmented features, who could be anyone and no-one. Wearing a necklace of fire, the flames rest next to her heart, rising and ready to envelop her whole being. With love presented as a powerful force, the cause of both destruction and rebirth, she stands calmly and strongly in the growing inferno.

As if touched by that same fire, Jennifer Hay’s eerily beautiful Burnt Lace casts a shimmering wraith of itself in shadow against the white wall. Hand-crocheted with copper wire, dark resin and beads give the illusion of scorched edges, the curling column of metal loops seeming to have emerged scarred but intact from the ravages of heat.

Eric Schusser’s striking photographic triptych Essential Unfolding draws second and third glances to each winding detail, as the graceful, hypnotic movement of coiling flames is explored through the similarly sensuous glide of surging water — two opposing elements, one the enemy of the other yet not wholly apart, both with the power to calm the mind and soothe the spirit.

By Laura Elliott