Art Seen: November 30

In this week's Art Seen, Laura Elliott looks at a small exhibition of art at the Queenstown Arts Centre,  Art Bay Gallery, and an exhibition by Andi Regan.

Rees, by Priscilla Clare
Rees, by Priscilla Clare
‘‘Queenstown Annual Art Awards’’ (Queenstown Arts Centre)

The annual awards bring together creative minds from all over the region, each contributing their own voice and vision, and the result is diverse and exciting. Traditional subject matter meets modern technique in Priscilla Clare’s Rees, a landscape that employs blocks of colour and stylised lines to evoke the sights and feel of the land, and Esther Dexter’s clever Dreaming of Arrowtown, which incorporates negative space in a style reminiscent of a linocut.

Tanya Celine Walker’s The Forge Queenstown 1930 uses a hint of abstraction to give the appearance of a faded black-and-white photograph, blurring out the facial features of the depicted figures and softening the edges of the buildings, like ghostly remnants of the past. In stark contrast is Dean Williams’ graffiti-style No Refunds, an exuberant explosion of pop culture and social commentary that propels from the picture plane.

Susan Cleaver’s photo collage Balancing Act is aptly titled, both for the subject matter and the artist’s eye for colour. The placement of light and shadow adds incredible depth and fluidity to the image, which just tilts the balance into surrealism, with birds alighting on a scale that is doubling as a vase. Charles Hannah provides another touch of whimsy, with his animal subjects peering playfully around the borders of their canvases, keeping a curious eye on the happenings in the gallery.

Joy of Haura, by Nejat Kavvas
Joy of Haura, by Nejat Kavvas
‘‘Painted Cities,’’ by Ilya Volykhine and ‘‘Existence in the Void,’’ by Nejat Kavvas (Art Bay Gallery, Queenstown)

It's a double feature at Art Bay Gallery this month, with separate shows by Ilya Volykhine and Nejat Kavvas. Volykhine’s multifaceted works begin with a story unfolding from the artist’s hands and then take on a free-flowing life of their own. There are so many minute details, quirky happenings and elements of black humour and pathos that the narrative of each canvas seems to exist in perpetuity. Volykhine invests each picture with a universality of human experience — and a tinge of the surreal. His technique creates a collage of painted figures with elongated limbs and exaggerated features, layered over handwritten diary fragments and printed scraps. It’s almost like moving through vignettes from an illustrative film, but in the subjects’ body language and turns of expression, it is possible to recognise common emotions and very relatable reactions.

Nejat Kavvas was exposed to the fantastic beauty and inherent possibilities of glass art at a young age. His Joy of Hauraki Gulf appears to contain the shimmers and ripples of waves, absorbing the light that filters through the gallery windows, while Frozen Apocalypse II is so skilfully executed that you expect the frosted surface to melt in the sun. His bronze work is equally spectacular, with pieces such as Afloat defying the apparent constrictions of gravity to create an image of dynamism and elegance.

Pink Manuka, by Andi Regan
Pink Manuka, by Andi Regan
‘‘Bloom,’’ by Andi Regan (Hullabaloo Arts Centre, Cromwell)

Andi Regan is a master at taking an everyday, mundane object and turning it into something beautiful. Her latest solo show, ‘‘Bloom’’, presents a profusion of New Zealand flowers made from cable ties; plastic in form, but wholly organic in appearance.

Her Tree Fuchsia hang suspended like lanterns, casting delicate shadows, their structure wrought with the intricacy and complexity of lace. The loops and star patterns of the Pink Manuka give the impression of energy and movement, as if they’re about to flutter their petals and fly from the wall, a perfect nod to their connection with the cycle of bees and pollination.

One of the most beautiful sights is the cascade of Southern Rata, a floral glimpse at Christmas approaching, Mother Nature’s display of festivity and celebration. The spiky fronds burst out like the rays of the sun, holding a deceptive appearance of softness that belies their construction. The Mountain Daisies, resting in their vases as if freshly picked, are equally fragile and elegant to the eye, with their curving stems and halo of petals.

Regan has an incredible ability to invest a solid, utilitarian material with the serene, ephemeral qualities of the blooms. The show pays respect to the visual beauty of the plants, but also their fight to survive and flourish, often in difficult terrain and an increasingly damaged environment.


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