Art Seen: March 21

In this week's Art Seen, Laura Elliott looks at exhibitions from Melanie Eade, Janette Cervin, and Megan Huffadine.

Aged by Thyme, by Melanie Eade
Aged by Thyme, by Melanie Eade
''Outlines'', Melanie Eade (Eade Gallery, Clyde)

An abandoned car, weathered with age and rust, becomes one with the environment as the surrounding flora creeps over and into it. A row of quirky mailboxes, each invested with individual character, seem somehow as much a part of the land as the tussock and hills and the blue sky above. Piles of brightly painted drums create an intriguing, unexpected grid of colour in an otherwise normal field. Skilfully executed in oil pastel and gouache, Melanie Eade's bright, bold scenes of rural Central Otago focus on the relationship of man-made objects to their natural surroundings. When items such as the car are no longer in use, their original function stripped away, their form becomes part of the landscape, the manufactured merging seamlessly with the living world.

In the appropriately titled ''Outlines'', Eade uses a black wash and negative space to clearly delineate shapes and applies layers of pastel to build dimension and texture. A beginning wash brightens the composition and allows glimpses of pink-toned highlight to peek through. Her handling of light and shade is superb, and works such as Out to Pasture and Aged by Thyme have incredible depth and a cleverly constructed composition. There is authenticity and heart in the collection; the lack of a living human presence could be eerie or poignant, but instead there is a sense of calm and peace, small pockets of happy stillness in a busy, chaotic world.

 

Hustle for the Pretty Things, by Janette Cervin
Hustle for the Pretty Things, by Janette Cervin
''Botanical @ Fantastical II'', Janette Cervin (Gallery Thirty Three, Wanaka)

Walking amidst Janette Cervin's work is like opening a storybook and stepping into its pages. Each large aluminium canvas acts as a window, a portal into an immersive, jewel-toned world, rich with birdlife and lush flowers. The level of intricate detail is impressive, engrossing the viewer as they are drawn closer to look, examine and wonder. Cervin paints on multiple layers of poured resin, literally encasing every gorgeous bird and petal as if they were fossils preserved in amber, and the result is an incredible three-dimensional depth. Every scene appears to extend far back beyond the flat surface of the picture plane. In areas, the paint shimmers with a reflective lustre, as if the works are lit from within, as if you could push aside the branches and follow a path towards the glimpses of serene water and rushing waterfalls, and find the source of the glow.

The tropical atmosphere of works such as The Visitor is open and warm, viscerally attractive, but the stand-outs in an extremely strong collection are the glorious, darker-toned Hustle for the Pretty Things and Wonderlust. Brightly coloured birds and flowers radiate against a background that flickers into complex shadows, shapes painted on the first layers of resin receding into an elusive mistiness behind those in the foreground. Their composition has the intricacy of a medieval tapestry, and a comparable beauty.

 

Auric Divination, by  Megan Huffadine
Auric Divination, by Megan Huffadine
''The Wonder Room'', Megan Huffadine (Hullabaloo Art Space, Cromwell)

There is always something delightfully enigmatic about Megan Huffadine's work, as if each element is another piece of a puzzle, a clue in a treasure hunt.

''The Wonder Room'' draws on the idea of the Wunderkammer or ''Cabinets of curiosities'', which were rooms containing items of interest and intrigue, humour and majesty, gathered together for display in a private precursor of the modern-day museum.

''Wonder Room'' combines painted imagery and sculpted artefacts, the latter often placed within wooden compartments, emphasising the idea of a museum exhibit and a treasure chest.

References to plant life and the natural world are told through the use of symbols, placed in patterns that suggest a secret language, a code to be deciphered, as if the land around us holds countless truths if we could only see them and read them.

The framed paintings feature shapes that skilfully refer to botanical and material beauty, at one glance a seed, at another a jewel-encrusted relic with patterns resembling a carved mask.

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