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BY LAURA ELLIOT
(Lakes District Museum & Gallery, Arrowtown)
With contributing artists from Otago, Southland and Christchurch, Arrowtown’s Autumn Festival Art Exhibition is an annual highlight.
This year’s show is arguably the best in recent memory, partly due to the strong showing by multimedia artists.
Gorgeous workmanship and endless levels of tiny, articulate detail make pieces such as Helen Darling’s linoprints, Jane Craske’s felted wool vessels, and Emma Gamson’s flourishing wire trees a visual joy.
Landscapes are usually well-represented in collaborative exhibitions — naturally so, with visual inspiration around every corner — but we all see the world differently and the uniqueness of the human experience is reflected in every canvas and every photograph.
In the latter section, Simon Williams’ The Crown Range is one of many stand-out works; through his lens, the viewer stands at the edge of a rugged peak, looking across to the shadowed mountains beyond.
As the sharp definition of the hills disappears into the night, the eye is drawn upward to a canopy of stars, constellations so vast and vivid that you could feel comparatively small and alone.
Instead, the image creates a sensation of belonging, of being part of something huge and meaningful — a fitting metaphor for an exhibition that operates like a visual symphony, effectively weaving together a diverse range of voices.
The paintings bring similar atmosphere and connection, from the gentle wash of subtle tones in Dave Attwell’s lovely watercolours to the highly effective abstraction of Cushla Hooper’s Arrowtown Walkway and the bold and stylised, deconstructed angles of Ira Mitchell’s acrylics.
(Hullabaloo Art Space, Cromwell)
The title of Sue Rutherford’s new solo show is almost superfluous — within seconds of entering the gallery space, you can all but smell the seaweed and hear the distant cry of a gull.
The ceramic pieces are so evocative of their marine theme that many might have been pulled straight from the waves or salvaged from the barnacle-encrusted wreck of an ancient ship.
Inspired by the shores of Southland, "Tidelines" is an exploration of the life teeming beneath waters rough and still, and a nod to the weathered, textural surfaces wrought by constant exposure to the elements.
Vessels such as Waves are quite ingenious in their design — as your eye is drawn down the curving exterior, the surface markings wave upward like rising currents, punctuated with a proliferation of raised air bubbles, as if you’re slowly being submerged into the depths, falling into the titular waves and seeing the light disappearing above.
Collectively, the Rock Pool series is a visual and sensory journey through memories of kneeling amid slippery rocks, seeing the thousands of tiny lifeforms moving at the whims of the tide.
The scales layered around one spherical vase are obviously reminiscent of the countless species of fish; however, in their size and depth there’s a slight suggestion of a mermaid’s tail, and the vast mythology and lore that has long marked the relationship between humans and the life-sustaining, sometimes life-taking sea.
(Eade Gallery, Cromwell)
The most subtle of shimmers runs through a dark and brooding sky; far below, a trio of small figures walk through an otherwise deserted landscape, their shadows stretching and blending into the elusive mystery of the surrounding terrain.
In a region where most landscapes are depicted in earthen, golden hues, Thomas Geddes’ frequently cool-toned, dramatic watercolours grab hold of the viewer and fall into an entirely new experience of the Central Otago land.
As the title of the collection would suggest, his work walks the insubstantial, ghostly line between the real and the purely imaginary — but the reality of the world we inhabit is unreliable and inconsistent in itself, varying between every set of eyes, every mind, every association from an individual past.
A single experience can colour our perception of a time and a place; one person’s refuge could be another’s nightmare, and that ever-shifting perspective is reflected beautifully in Geddes’ debut.
The deliberately restricted palette and tumultuous, encroaching sky in Storm Moon is highly evocative, washing over the viewer with spiralling tension and ominous anticipation — or perhaps your mind slips straight into the cosy shelter of the isolated cottage, safe and warm amid the comforting fall of rain.
Geddes has a very skilful eye for not just depicting, but understanding the transformative properties of light, particularly evident in A Still Moment, where the granular texture of the paint adds further depth to a scene of deceptively simple composition and complex atmosphere.