Art Seen: September 12

In this week's Art Seen, James Dignan looks at exhibitions from Barry Clarke, Joe L'Estrange, and a joint exhibition from Kirsten Lovelock and Angus Collins.

 

3 White Bait, by Barry Clarke
3 White Bait, by Barry Clarke
''Meanderings'', Barry Clarke (Moray Gallery)

There is a certain naive charm about the acrylic and watercolour paintings which form Barry Clarke's ''Meanderings''. Perhaps better known for his artistic skills as a fine art jeweller, Clarke has long continued his passion for painting alongside his jewellery work.

The images are largely created in areas of bright colour around central motifs such as birds, fish, and boats - all features which are commonplace to the artist's bach lifestyle at Kakanui and also reflect his long-term interest in the sea. These icons are painted in a primitive fashion, creating almost totem-like forms. There is no attempt at realism in the images; instead the artist has channelled his inner child to create many of the designs.

The objects are surrounded by an abstract world of bold colour and strong lines, allowing them to become a central recognisable focus within a field of lights. The designs are deliberately flat, having no indication of any form of perspective, and, combined with the lack of representationalism surrounding the central forms, this gives the pieces a slightly disorienting property. This is emphasised further with the watercolours, at least partially because the nature of the medium has not allowed for the crispness of line in the other works.

 

Autumn Seedpods, by Joe L’Estrange
Autumn Seedpods, by Joe L’Estrange
''The Four Seasons'', Joe L'Estrange (Brett McDowell Gallery)

Joe L'Estrange's garden images are always a delight. The artist's almost obsessive attention to fine, complex detail is coupled with a distinctive apparent flatness, yet somehow the subtlety of the shading and abundance of minute features is enough to make the works seem more three-dimensional the longer they are viewed.

L'Estrange has long had a fascination with images of the well-ordered within the seemingly haphazard, and the wild garden is the perfect subject to examine this combination. The tangled foliage and random blooms are perfectly placed just as nature would have intended, the organisation of the garden impossible to ascertain from a single view.

Through the series of works we see the garden at its best and its worst and at all stages in between. Winter is dominated by black negative space, overwhelming the presence of the few shoots that poke through the surface. By comparison, Blue Garden and Summer are riots of colour.

Above all, however, is the delicacy and precision of L'Estrange's flowers and foliage. Her pansies, jonquils, and profuse clover instantly transport the viewer to a day in the garden, surrounded by a wealth of blooms.

 

Convergence, by Kirsten Lovelock
Convergence, by Kirsten Lovelock
Kirsten Lovelock and Angus Collins (The Artist's Room)

The combination of work by Kirsten Lovelock and Angus Collins at The Artist's Room is, on face value, an odd one. The works differ in style and emotional charge. The spiritual warmth of Lovelock's work sits at odds with Collins' austere, yet obsessive suburbia (ironically, some of Collins' work would feel more at home alongside the Joe L'Estrange paintings across the road). However, what the two sets of works share is a sense of enigma.

Collins' paintings and prints have something of the Hockneyesque about them, the deserted bowling greens of Infinity Pool Fountain and anonymous houses of Castles have an undercurrent of unease. As with L'Estrange's work, it is the obsessive detail of works such as Masnou Airbrick, Night After the Masquerade Ball and Springtime. HaHa that repeatedly draws the eye.

It has been a while since Lovelock has had an exhibition in Dunedin, and her confidence - particularly the confidence to acknowledge her antecedents - has grown. Both Convergence and Healer boldly nod to the likes of Jeffrey Harris and Colin McCahon, placing her painting firmly within a New Zealand context. While her work, although very good, is clearly not yet at the standard of those two greats, Lovelock's experimentation with their symbolism and narrative are fascinating.

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