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In this week's Art Seen, James Dignan looks at exhibitions from Tom Voyce, Mighael Hight, and the Olga Gallery.
‘‘Otepoti and Beyond’’, Tom Voyce (The Artist’s Room)
Welsh artist Tom Voyce has returned with more images from his time as an artist-in-residence in Dunedin. His images, as the exhibition’s title suggests, are mainly views of places around the city, with a handful of other works from elsewhere in the country.
Voyce’s paintings bear strong comparison with those of one of his inspirations — American artist Richard Diebenkorn.
Like Diebenkorn, Voyce uses flat planes of colour and a rigorous bold perspective to create images with an immense sense of depth. In some of the works, the perspective has been pushed to the point where an almost vertiginous feeling can be evoked in the viewer, but in doing so, the artist has grasped and beautifully conveyed the power of the landscape.
Voyce works on groups of paintings simultaneously, and by comparing works we get a sense of the devices he uses to create his scenes. Looking at images of Portobello, The Remarkables and Dunedin Railway Station, we see how we are drawn into the picture by bold leading diagonals which take us directly to the shimmering peaks in the distance. Voyce’s use of colour, with its strong blues and greens and flashes of red and yellow is no less audacious than the lines in these startling, attractive works.
‘‘Tributary (Part 2)’’, Michael Hight (Milford Gallery)
Michael Hight has produced another fine series of landscapes, both physical and mental, in his latest series of works at Milford Gallery. The artist’s compositional sense and fine eye for detail make the works a joy to behold.
Approximately half of the works in this exhibition are scenes from the inland high plains of the South Island, with fields receding until they reach the grandeur of the mountains.
As with many of Hight’s works, the centre of foreground attention is a group of beehives which form a henge, a timeless monument to human impingement on the natural backdrop. Hight is subtly commenting on the symbiosis which has formed between man and nature, and on how easily the balance between the two may be upended.
The remaining works, Hight’s Nocturnes, are a parallel series of internal landscapes — the land being that of dream and memory. In images such as Glenorchy a single symbol of the countryside is presented against an empty black backdrop, looming as from a dream.
In other works, perhaps the most astonishing in the exhibition, several such signifiers have been placed in the shelves of a wooden filing system. Mountains, artefacts, and memories detail the timeline of a life, simultaneously conjuring up comparisons with art ranging from Renaissance vanitas painting to De Chirico’s metaphysical works.
‘‘Exquisite Corpse’’ (Olga Gallery)
Olga Gallery has delved into the Surrealist playbook for its Fringe exhibition, ‘‘Exquisite Corpse’’.
‘‘Le cadavre exquis’’ (the exquisite corpse) was a technique developed from an old parlour game and was used by surrealist artists to free up their minds in the creation of images and to collaborate in groups of three or more on artistic works. One artist would draw the top of a figure, typically a head, then fold the paper over. The second artist, blind to the design of the top section, would then provide a torso, before the process was repeated with a third artist providing the lower portion of the body.
In Olga’s exhibition, groups of three local artists have produced works by similar methods. As might be expected by this process, the images are often hit-and-miss, but where they have succeeded they have produced some intriguing and thought-provoking chimeric forms. In one particularly memorable piece, a reclining blindfolded head attached to a serpent’s neck morphs into a beautifully drawn wild flower. This in turn merges into a pair of outsized human feet.