Art Seen: September 23

On the Taieri by Debbie Malcolm
On the Taieri by Debbie Malcolm

“Central Otago Art Society Blossom Festival Art Exhibition”, various artists (Central Stories Museum & Gallery, Alexandra)

The Central Otago Art Society’s Blossom Festival Art Exhibition opens today at Central Stories. The show is divided into three sections — the general competition, entries from past winners, and works submitted under the theme of “The Art of Decay”. The standard and scope of landscapes, still lifes, abstraction, and collage is excellent, with painters like Julia Sternkopf capturing the unique golden-tinged light and mountain peaks with photographic accuracy. Debbie Malcolm’s landscapes are one of countless highlights, rendered in a cool-toned palette, imparting a sense of calm and crispness that’s almost palpable. As the horizon light begins to diffuse into a frosty haze, you can see and feel winter creeping in.

Abstract art is juxtaposed effectively with the figurative works. June Harris’ Naughty Red and Carnival are fascinating pieces, with an extraordinary eye for colour and a vivid sense of movement — and, somehow, sound. . Colin MacLaren’s watercolours of lively local street scenes and Lynn Grace’s swirling, graceful The Dancer bring a dynamic human presence to the room. Jenny Hill’s multimedia works are always a window into a nostalgic, romantic world, and her Silvereyes and Wild Flowers is a particularly beautiful piece. Among the sculptural and ceramic entries, Victoria Claire Dawes’s Large Floral Vase almost has the appearance of vintage tapestry, as if the vessel is wrapped in appliqued lace. The exhibition rooms are packed full of gems, and the show is a must-see on the Central Otago arts calendar.

Let's Go - Fun Ho! by Peter Miller
Let's Go - Fun Ho! by Peter Miller
“The Latest Arrivals”, various artists (Gallery Thirty Three, Wanaka)

A distinct and very welcome sense of youthful fun pervades several of the new works at Wanaka’s Gallery Thirty Three — a nostalgic cheekiness and whimsy for the child in all of us. Simon Lewis Wards returns to his popular series paying homage to iconic Kiwi lollies, immortalising another classic treat with his Oversized Framed Milkshake Wrapper. It’s an object that thousands of people screw up and discard daily, probably without a second thought; but the moment an artfully creased and re-smoothed sweet wrapper is blown up to a size better suited to a giant’s pocket, it makes everybody smile. It also makes for a quirky and very cool piece of art. Situated nearby in the gallery are Lewis Wards’ Glass Candy Set — Hearts, a gorgeous and accurate rendition of the heart-shaped lollies in cast glass, spilling out of a “paper” bag. The latter is ceramic, a stunning piece of craftsmanship, every crinkle and crease clearly delineated and deceptively pliable.

Peter Miller has a distinctive, incredibly precise style, frequently situating ordinary objects in his still lifes and bestowing upon them the dramatic lighting of an Old Master portrait. His images constantly act as a bridge between the present and the past, plucking teasingly at memories. In Let’s Go — Fun Ho!, he depicts a slightly battered Fun Ho! car, the paint wearing off after hours of play and love, casting a shadow so convincing you feel you could reach out and lift the toy from the canvas.

You Call Me Child by Marion Vialade-Worch.
You Call Me Child by Marion Vialade-Worch.
“The Cloud Diary: A Conversation with the Sky at Twilight’’, Marion Vialade-Worch (Hullabaloo Art Space, Cromwell)

From childhood onwards, it’s no coincidence that so many stories, fairy tales and legends take place in the twilight hours, beneath the night sky. When the sun goes down, the busy world seems to simultaneously slow and come to life, a different sort of energy stirring. It’s our portal to the rest of the universe, the clearer view of the stars, the moon, the infinite space beyond our horizon — a reminder of the wider picture when our vision can become very narrow and inwardly focused during the light of day. Marion Vialade-Worch’s new solo show “The Cloud Diary” is based on 10 years of recording and connecting with her own slice of the sky above. It’s a personal and intimate dialogue with those sights, those countless individual moments, but there is a universal feeling with the works.

Working predominantly with oil pastels and coloured pencils, Vialade-Worch successfully straddles a balance between realism and abstraction, using highly textural blocks and swirls of colour to evoke an intense sense of place and time. In the burning glow of the falling sun, the land is lit with a golden halo and shadows stretch into the coming night. The sky in several pieces has the vividity of a neon light, connecting with the largest piece, Wanderers Delight, in which a garden is lit up with Christmas lights and decorations, the pointillist dots of colour lending the impression of joyful chaos, like a night-time carnival.


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