Art seen: September 24

Ariki #9, by Darryn George
Ariki #9, by Darryn George
‘‘Waitohu’’, various artists

(Milford Galleries Dunedin)

MILFORD GALLERIES DUNEDIN’S ‘‘Waitohu’’ exhibition is an extraordinary showcase of current Maori art. The exhibition, which fills the gallery, features work by 13 artists, all of whom bridge the divide between traditional Maori cultural skills and the scope and depth of modern art practice.

The main gallery is dominated by a large Robert Jahnke installation, which uses reflection and light, and incorporates Hone Tuwhare poetry to create a meditative, cleansing gallery entrance. The work becomes a welcoming karakia, and simultaneously references tukutuku and modern Maori art history with its nod to the collaborations of Ralph Hotere and Bill Culbert.

Light is a major element in many of the pieces, from the burnished fiery depths of Israel Birch's hanging sculptures to Peata Larkin's combined painting/light box works, which are also strongly inspired by tukutuku.

Darryn George's works show a shift in the artist's subject matter, with two bold geometric works focusing on the power of the word and two more recent tranquil pieces, commemorating Aotearoa's coming together after the Christchurch mosque attacks. The latter pieces are intensely patterned and colourful, yet somehow also invoke the central garden of pleasure from Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights. The exhibition travels to Waikato after it closes in Dunedin and, given its calibre, probably deserves a nationwide tour.

Early St Clair Study, by Lindsay Crooks
Early St Clair Study, by Lindsay Crooks

‘‘Harbours and Beaches’’, Lindsay Crooks (Koru Gallery)

EVEN more than a decade after his death, it is hard to think of paintings of summer Otago beaches without the name of Brighton painter Lindsay Crooks coming to mind.

The artist's innate use of line, and the warmth of the seemingly haphazard addition of colour, created works which seem simple, but which display true skill and charm. The artist's images are calming and joyous, and the apparent ease of construction hides the actual complexity of many of the compositions. Crooks could outline a busy subject with a handful of bold lines and coloured patches, and capture both the essence and emotion of the scene. In works such as Recreational Fishers, a handful of dark lines and some subtle colour washes captures the scene as well as any photo-realistic oil work could.

Koru Gallery's exhibition, which has been arranged by the artist's family, brings together Crooks' beach scenes, mainly from around the South Island, both in completed conte or painted form and in early working sketches. Even at an early stage, the friendliness of the pieces and the artist's obvious love for the coast are readily apparent, and in works ranging from the gentle Fishing Boats to the moody Carey's Bay (Untitled) that love is conveyed strongly to the viewer.

St John, by Manu Berry
St John, by Manu Berry

‘‘Poetry Bundle’’, Manu Berry

(Bellamys Gallery)

BELLAMYS GALLERY is hosting the latest exhibition by Manu Berry, ‘‘Poetic Bundle’’. It is the culmination of a collaboration between the printmaker and a group of New Zealand poets, ranging from Cilla McQueen to Richard Reeve. Each poet has produced a short collection of poems illustrated by Berry, which have been printed and collated into in a limited edition of ‘‘bundles’’ to be distributed to libraries around the country.

The visual arts result of this collaboration is a large array of monochromatic prints by Berry, illustrating each of the poems in the collection. These prints are accompanied by a series of portraits, one of each poet. In total, there are around 70 prints on display.

There is a lot to like about the works in the exhibition. The wide-ranging styles and diverse subject matter show off Berry's skills as a master printmaker, and his versatility is apparent in the changes between the solid, sombre inking of Across the dark harbour and Said the top lip, the intricate patterning of ship's rigging in Inveterate smugglers and turbulent water in Crossing the river, and the effective capturing of character in the warm, slightly whimsical, portraits of David Karena-Holmes and Nick Ascroft.

James Dignan

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