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In this week's Art Seen, Robyn Maree Pickens looks at exhibitions from Justin Spiers, Laurel Project Space, and Saskia Leek.
''Pet Photo Booth'', Justin Spiers (Olga)
OLGA is a new gallery and framing workshop run by Justin Spiers at 32 Moray Pl in what used to be Eskdale Gallery.
The recently opened gallery is a hybrid of commercial and project space, and the framing workshop specialises in archival framing. Spiers has effectively reconfigured the gallery space by installing a half-width wall towards the back of the gallery and has removed the freestanding wall in the window.
The name ''Olga'' is in memory one of his mother's friends, Olga Struyk, who also ran a gallery and framing business in the same building with her husband, painter Hubert Struyk.
Olga, the gallery, opened on February 22 with an exhibition of photographic work by Spiers. The exhibition, ''Pet Photo Booth'', may be familiar to readers, as Spiers was the 2018 Creative Connections resident at the Caselberg Trust in Broad Bay, and his project of photographing pets and their owners drew many locals, particularly from the Broad Bay area.
''Pet Photo Booth'' comprises 16 box-framed pigment prints and two unframed photographs selected from the larger Caselberg project (which can be viewed in a catalogue). Featuring a range of domestic pets, Spiers' photographs are as much portraits of animals as they are portraits of the animals' owners, as in the case of Elmo, a large black long-haired dog wrapped around his owner's shoulders.
Laurel Project Space
A new artist-run space has opened in Dunedin. Located upstairs at 418 Princes St, Laurel Project Space is run and funded by five young artists and graduates: Erin Broughton, Jacqui Margetts,Ed Ritchie, Kari Schmidt and Lucy Wardle.
The collective intends Laurel to be an inclusive, community-oriented art and event space that can be responsive to the group's interests, to other galleries' programming and, more generally, to community concerns. Laurel's founders are interested in a model that enables them to be intentionally flexible and spontaneous. That said, Laurel's programme over its first opening few weeks is complementary and considered, with a series of rotating events that pair exhibited artworks with associated events.
Laurel opened on February 22 with a single colour field painting by Eliot Coates and a guided meditation by Kari Schmidt on February 28. A subtle convergence between painted light and meditational light is evident in this particular pairing. This pairing is followed today with the presentation of a work by Ed Ritchie, Megan Brady and Kirsty Lewry, and a film screening at 5.30pm. The associated event - the film screening - is intended to extend the conversation around the exhibited artwork, and to consider the very energy of those in attendance as a type of artwork. With their complementary exhibition and event programme Laurel is embarking on a project of enlivening art spaces.
''Early Telepaths'', Saskia Leek (DPAG)
Saskia Leek makes paintings about paintings. She makes paintings about the history of painting, such as the modernist trajectory from representation to abstraction, and painting at the opposite end of the spectrum: painting that tends not to get shown in galleries.
Leek's practice draws these two worlds together with absolute conviction and sincerity. She brings together art world concerns with formal innovation and a casual painter's interest in subject matter, or what to paint. It is the combination of these concerns that characterises Leek's practice.
She returns to simple objects such as fruit, leaves, architectural forms and shapes over and over again. Each reprisal and iteration seems intent on burrowing into what makes a painting a painting.
Leek's iterations bend and play with composition and colour to singular effect. Compositionally, Leek plays with the frame, emphasising it through multiplication, trading on relationships between a framed painting, a window frame and curtains that frame windows. She paints frames within frames that frequently frame an object at the traditional centre of a picture plane, such as a yellow sunflower set in a yellow slanted oblong against a smeared blue, apricot and red background.
Walking into ''Early Telepaths'' is an immersive experience. The viewer is bathed in bright colours of representational and abstract forms painted in solid blocks and translucent washes.
Each painting pops yet resonates as a whole.
-By Robyn Maree Pickens