Art Seen: March 18

In this week's Art Seen, Laura Elliott looks at exhibitions from Gallery Thirty Three, Lizzie Carruthers, and a joint exhibition from Ola Hoglund and Marie Simberg-Hoglund.


Freesia, by Jon Thom
Freesia, by Jon Thom
‘‘Freeze’’, Jon Thom and ‘‘Alembics: A New Glass Vernacular’’, Luke Jacomb (Gallery Thirty Three, Wanaka)

A block of ice glitters like a diamond, its melted edges fractured and jagged like broken glass. Beneath the frosty surface, a dying flower is caught, literally frozen in time, its wilting petals tinting the water a delicate pink.

In his new photographic collection — ‘‘Freeze’’ at Wanaka’s Gallery Thirty Three — Jon Thom captures a series of withered blooms, preserved in ice, forever in film. Flowers live a life of brief splendour, prized for their fleeting beauty one day, discarded the next as they begin to fade.

Thom repositions them in his dramatic compositions, creating a stark and graceful contrast against the heavy black background, and reveals the beauty still to be found, if you just look from a different angle or with a new mindset.

His work challenges the pervasive idea that things are easily disposable, that they lose their worth as soon as their apparent perfection is lost.

Also showing in the gallery is Luke Jacomb’s fascinating exhibition ‘‘Alembics’’, which focuses on the science of glass art and its alchemical history. Glass is coloured by adding metal oxides to molten glass, and in the early days of glass production, the rarest and most luxurious shade was red, produced with gold.

Among the sleek jewel tones of his work, Jacomb’s collection showcases gold ruby glass, hand-blown into his conical alembics, an alchemical apparatus of two vessels connected by a tube, used for the distillation process.


Hen Party (detail), by Lizzie Carruthers
Hen Party (detail), by Lizzie Carruthers
‘‘Hen Party’’, Lizzie Carruthers (Hullabaloo Art Space, Cromwell)

From the canvas of Lizzie Carruthers’ Hen Party, a cluster of chickens press forward, staring out at the viewer, their demeanour curious, sceptical, slightly accusing. One confident character crouches, looking ready to charge.

The painted showdown makes you want to both smile and take a prudent step back. As you move from work to work and meet the other attendees of the party, however, it’s increasingly whimsical and delightful, and it’s very difficult not to laugh —which is Carruthers’ intention.

A celebration and homage to her mother-in-law who “loved a party, gin, hens and most of all family”, each piece is a tongue-in-cheek pun and a warmly welcoming work of art.

Painted with thick, textural brushstrokes and blocks of colour, Cheryl Crow is a well-coiffed hen with an impressive head of hair, standing at her microphone, evidently mid-song. Princess Laya, equally notable for her hair-do, is upright and determined, ready to take on the Dark Side.

The world is Victoria Peckham’s runway as she walks with grace and style, silhouetted against a background of abstract spring tones, like a garden slightly out of focus in a photograph. And a particular favourite — the rooster, Gregory Peck, a very stylish gentleman with a fabulous suit and a withering stare.

A continuation of Carruthers’ usual skill with animal subjects, but with a wonderfully quirky edge, ‘‘Hen Party’’ is a spark of joy.


Rainforest Graal, by Ola Hoglund and Marie Simberg-Hoglund
Rainforest Graal, by Ola Hoglund and Marie Simberg-Hoglund
‘‘Graal Collection’’, Ola Hoglund and Marie Simberg-Hoglund (Hoglund Gallery, Central Otago)

Ola Hoglund and Marie Simberg-Hoglund have long produced some of the most beautiful glass art in the country, and their ‘‘Painted Graal’’ and ‘‘Rainforest Graal’’ collections combine complicated techniques, ambitious designs, and exquisite execution.

Influenced by their Swedish heritage and the Pacific, Hoglund and Simberg-Hoglund work with a mutual eye for colour and pattern, and a connection to both bustling city life and a quiet rural landscape.

The ‘‘Painted Graal’’ pieces place imagery within layers of clear crystal glass for a three-dimensional, rounded effect, many incorporating bold black lines and a bright, warm colour palette that is also reflected in Simberg-Hoglund’s canvas paintings.

A particularly striking vase comes from the ‘‘Rainforest Graal’’ collection. In the inner bubble, light and shadow is employed ingeniously, gradating through lighter, brighter green to black, so the effect is like peering through a canopy of trees. Leaves sway sideways, as if a curious hand is pushing them aside to see what’s to be found in the glowing space beyond, as the overhead lights shine through the glass.

The vessel was produced through a multi-step process, with Hoglund first blowing a ‘‘blank’’, a small bubble of clear glass, layered with coloured crystal glass.

Simberg-Hoglund etches images and patterns into the blank, before it’s covered with additional layers of crystal glass, trapping the delicate air bubbles that rise through the finished piece, and blown to its completed state.

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