Art seen: May 30

Together in Time, by Larisse Hall.
Together in Time, by Larisse Hall.
"In Time", Larisse Hall

(Fe29 Gallery)

Larisse Hall’s exhibition at Fe29 Gallery is a memorable display of colour and light.

Hall’s work combines paint and illumination to create shifting colour field images. Working on undulating hand-stretched canvases, the artist utilises fields of softly merging colours, overlaid with sweeping gestural forms which owe much to the open circular Zen form of ensō, a symbol of movement towards perfection through the drawing of a state of open emptiness from the universe.

In Hall’s work, this central motif gains power from the use of fluorescent paint and internal lighting. The concept of movement towards a goal is echoed in the movement of light through time. The constant changing of light through the day causes a gradual shift in the hues of the works, and with the dimming of light at dusk, internal lights beneath the canvas produce dramatic changes in tone. Paintings in one set of colours are illuminated from within by completely different hues, often diametrically opposed to the painted shades. The works become chimeric, turning from deep pinkish reds to rich indigoes or soft oranges to lurid greens, showing their two forms in the light and the dark as if they are werewolves.

The works are fascinating and lively, yet still retain the peacefulness and contemplative aura of the Zen forms they reflect.

Adventitious Growth, by Tyler Kennedy Stent.
Adventitious Growth, by Tyler Kennedy Stent.
"Whenua: Artwork Straight Out of the Nests of Piwakawaka", Al Bell and Tyler Kennedy Stent

(The Artist’s Room)

The Artist’s Room is showing a blended exhibition containing a series of joint works by Al Bell and Tyler Kennedy Stent, mixed with a series of large works by Stent.

The dually created works are an impressive series of pieces on fine art paper, combining Stent’s strong, almost gouache-like watercolour paintings on paper which has been embossed by Bell. Bell has also added etchings to several of the pieces. These works for a consistent theme, with young Māori children surrounded by taonga — some living, in the form of bustling clouds of piwakawaka (fantails), and others relating more specifically to Māori heritage. Two "Whenua" works, featuring a young girl and a waka huia (treasure box) containing a copy of the Treaty of Waitangi, are particularly impressive pieces. The works are strong pieces, with Stent’s portraits sitting comfortably against Bell’s whakairo-inspired embellishments.

Alongside these works are a series of larger pieces by Stent, all presented in the same thick, opaque watercolour. These include several fine portraits, including the self-portrait of I Shake, I Shiver, I Shiver. Of these pieces, the charming close-up Nevermind and the double portrait Adventitious Growth are particularly eye-catching.

The deliberate use of impasto underpainting plays a similar role in these pieces to Bell’s embossing in the paper works.

Sleeping, by A. Lois White.
Sleeping, by A. Lois White.
"Gathered Voices: Highlights from the Fletcher Trust Collection",

(Eastern Southland Gallery, Gore)

Over the course of its existence, the Eastern Southland Gallery in Gore has gone from being a good provincial gallery to footing it with some of the country’s best. The gallery is especially recognised for several collections, notably an extensive collection of Ralph Hotere artworks and John Money’s bequest of his large collection of ethnographic pieces from around the world.

Now, to celebrate its 40th year, the gallery is hosting a series of major exhibitions, starting with a display showcasing 22 of the finest pieces from the Fletcher Trust Collection, arguably the country’s most important private collection.

Curated by Francis McWhannell, the exhibition is a cross-section of the collection, with an emphasis on portraiture and other figurative works.

The pieces date from early colonial pieces through to recent works, and are arranged so as to prompt the viewer to challenge our assumptions about New Zealand art history, and to examine the similarities, differences and changes across time in our national art.

There are many highlights in the show, which ranges from C.F. Goldie through Rita Angus to Tony Fomison and Michael Smither and on to Robyn Kahukiwa and Emily Karaka.

It is an impressive sampling of one of the country’s most important art collections.

By James Dignan