Art Seen: October 6

In this week's Art Seen, James Dignan looks at works by Jessica Crothall, a twin exhibition from Frank Gordon and Jenni Stringleman, and an exhibition from Fe29 Gallery.

Crosses III, by Jessica Crothall.
Crosses III, by Jessica Crothall.
‘‘Stations of the Cross’’, Jessica Crothall (Moray Gallery)

Jessican Crothall continues her theme of large, heavily structured abstracts in her latest exhibition, ''Stations of the Cross''.

As the name suggests, the works in the display are inspired by the artist's faith, but there is nothing overt in the nature of the pieces which does no more than hint at their religious basis.

Indeed, the paintings are attractive and enigmatic pieces when studied from either a Christian or a purely secular viewpoint.

The works are constructed of bold girder-like lines of blacks and earthy hues criss-crossing the canvas. These autumnal structures suggest construction, stained glass, or aerial route maps.

There are deliberate suggestions of destruction and rebirth, partly inspired by the artist's experiences during the Christchurch earthquakes and partly from the religious symbolism presented by the exhibition's title.

The paintings present a grounding, or a location map upon which the artist is setting her foundations as her life shifts and grows.

There are hints that the paintings could fit together into an all-encompassing larger image.

The grids disappear off the edges of the canvas seemingly into infinity, yet each canvas is itself horizontally divided into two distinct parts, suggesting that there may be a jigsaw-like solution to the whole display.

Like a broken city, there is a feeling here of impending reconnection and resurrection.

Wild Abandon, by Jenni Stringleman.
Wild Abandon, by Jenni Stringleman.
‘‘Botanical’’, Frank Gordon, and ‘‘Paradise’’, Jenni Stringleman (Gallery De Novo)

Twin exhibitions are on at Gallery De Novo, with works by Frank Gordon and Jenni Stringleman displayed.

Gordon’s art is much loved locally for its colourful and whimsical scenes, populated by cartoon-like people floating past a wide-angle Dunedin skyscape.

There is magic in the air in the artist’s work; the protagonists of the paintings engage in activities which are simultaneously mundane yet fanciful.

The dreamlike scenes in this exhibition include one which graces the cover of the Arts Festival guide, and which is being auctioned off with proceeds going to the festival.

Unusually for Gordon, the display also presents some more ‘‘straight’’ portraits, of which one, the wistful Love Lies Bleeding, is a standout work.

While Frank Gordon’s exhibition is titled ‘‘Botanical’’, it is ironically Jenni Stringleman’s work which provides the flowers. Auckland-based Stringleman’s blooms veer in style from the naturalistic to a bolder, more angular approach which has echoes of early 20th-century cubism and the related styles of futurism and orphism.

These latter, more ebullient works (such as Wild Abandon and Flourish 3) catch the eye with their glowing, shifting patterns of light which — as with Jessica Crothall’s art — bring to mind stained-glass windows.

Der Badende Mand (The Bathing Man), by Carl Heinrich Bloch.
Der Badende Mand (The Bathing Man), by Carl Heinrich Bloch.
‘‘Antique Etchings and Prints’’ (Fe29 Gallery)

St Clair's Fe29 Gallery is currently showing a remarkable exhibition of works on paper, part of a collection built up over several years in Denmark by gallery co-owner Cecilia Mickelsen.

The works on display include book plates, original prints, and historical reprints from original plates of works by a wide range of artists, including several recognised as masters of their art.

The best known of these names is without doubt Rembrandt van Rijn, represented by several book plates and a 19th-century reprint from an original plate.

Less well known outside their native land, but stealing the show from the bigger names, are works by late 19th- and early 20th-century Scandinavian artists Louis Moe, Lorenz Frolich and Theodore Kittelsen.

Norwegian Kittelsen's images in particular are a delight with their sinister children's book characters. Moe's work also stands out, especially one of the exhibition's centrepieces, the intricate etching Skattegraveren (Tax Gravedigger).

The most recent work on display also draws the eye - a series of 18 etchings created in 1964 by Bo Bonfils to illustrate Edgar Allan Poe's classic poem The Raven.

These works, with their stark, compelling graphic style and font, would make a spectacular frieze if placed in series around the walls of a room.

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