Art Seen: October 21

Lindis River  by Philip Beadle.
Lindis River by Philip Beadle.
“Autumn Light Central”, Philip Beadle

(Eade Gallery, Clyde)

When the sun begins to sink behind the hills, the light is low and golden, and defined edges blur into a soft haze, there’s something just a little bit magical in the world — and few artists can collect and cast that feeling on to a canvas like Philip Beadle. The Christchurch painter’s new solo collection focuses largely on scenes around Clyde, and his handling of the unique light is superb. Both the canvas and the painted land seem to be lit from within, not in a dramatic spotlight but a warming, encompassing glow.

There’s something very spontaneous about Beadle’s style, the dabs and clusters of brushstrokes suggesting a creative process that adjusts and bends with new ideas and stimuli as they arise. Close up, you’ll see the most infinite flecks of different tones that resolve into perfectly rippling water and winding grape vines as you step farther back. Cool and warm tones are juxtaposed to delineate the foreground and background, with distant mountains receding into cool shadows.

In Sun on the Shotover River, an aerial view of the landscape strips away intricate details into blocks of colour and veins of sunlight tracing through the water. Lindis River is a standout of the show, a peaceful scene where the bending tree branches create a triangular sense of perspective that actively draws the eye up the river, where the water flows and foams around the rocks, heading off into the unknown.

Saagar-fired annulus by Robert Franklin.
Saagar-fired annulus by Robert Franklin.
“Fire and Fusion: An Exploration of Form and Texture”, Robert Franklin

(Hullabaloo Art Space, Cromwell)

Most art exhibitions understandably have a “look, love, but please don’t touch” policy. However, a hands-on experience is encouraged with Robert Franklin’s newest collection of saggar-fired vessels, and the satin-smoothness of even the most textural-looking pieces really does have to be felt to be believed. Several of the works have the distinct feel and look of marble, a silkily refined surface achieved without a single glaze. Throughout a lengthy process from pottery wheel to podium that can take up to a month, Franklin burnishes each vase several times with river stone to achieve the intense gloss and shine before the final firing.

Saggar firing is a sought-after art form that uses a ceramic container to protect the clay from the flames and debris of the kiln. Vessels are placed in the saggars along with combustible organic materials that ignite during the firing, a barrage of chemical reactions that create natural colours and unique patterns on the surface of the vases. Cobalt carbonate results in blue tones, ferric chloride in reds, yellows and oranges; pine needles leave distinct lashes of shadow. The possibilities are seemingly endless, and Franklin’s work is striking and exquisite, every piece a visual map of its own creation. The tonal palette conjures images of cloudy skies and hazy days, and every so often a shape or landscape seems to emerge from the abstract patterning, a fascinating experience that creates a personal connection with a particular piece.

Rabbit with Glasses by Jenni Barker.
Rabbit with Glasses by Jenni Barker.
“The Black Rabbit Cafe Show Series — Works by Jenni Barker”, Jenni Barker

(Black Rabbit Cafe, Bannockburn)

In the Black Rabbit Cafe’s latest exhibition series, artist Jenni Barker puts a thematic spotlight on one of the region’s most prolific inhabitants. Since the 1800s, the wild rabbit population has been a common sight darting across paths in the twilight, gathering in the fields, scattering across the hills, and repeatedly resisting attempts at controlling their spread. Although taking inspiration from the sights and nature around her, Barker depicts her rabbits with a storybook twist, painting a series of anthropomorphic, character-filled portraits.

A very dignified gentleman bunny in shirt and tie thoughtfully smokes his pipe, his fluffy, rounded cheeks and coiffed whiskers a decided contrast to the suggestion of the Victorian father. His more earnest neighbour faces the viewer, checked shirt buttoned neatly to his throat and glasses perched on his nose — a little more challenging to see through when your eyes are positioned on either side of your head. Barker consistently and playfully subverts reality with her tongue-in-cheek imagery.

In Run Rabbit Run, the leaping figure fills the foreground of the canvas, appearing enormous and dominant against the muted, stripped-down landscape. Along with Wind Up Rabbit, where the allusion to a clockwork toy emphasises the idea of a species that just keeps going and growing, Barker’s very well-dressed rabbits are a whimsical yet confident and bold presence.

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