Art Seen: September 28

In this week's Art Seen, James Dignan looks at a small exhibition of art at a small villa, and exhibitions from Brett McDowell Gallery, and Steev Peyroux.

 

Mother-Sucker, by Michele Beevors.
Mother-Sucker, by Michele Beevors.
''Re-Configure'' (20 Atkinson St, South Dunedin)

An exhibition of feminist art is on display at a small villa at 20 Atkinson St, South Dunedin.

The house's six rooms have been divided up, one per artist, into works on the related subjects of domesticity, body image, and sexism. The exhibition takes its lead from the 1972 Californian exhibition ''Woman House'', and sadly the same issues still need addressing nearly a half century later.

By design or accident, the works fall into three louder and three quieter pieces. Neither group is inferior, but they stress their messages in more blatant or subtle ways. The works of Sarah Baird, Kiri Mitchell, and Francine Keach fall into the loud category, with Mitchell's giant statue Beryl looming through a kitchen window, and Keach's horror-comedy botox video luridly filling a room with colour. Baird's display, with its room papered with examples of casual sexism and miniature mannequin army, is no less disturbing.

The three quieter works are perhaps more subtly intriguing. Megan Brady's sound and video work presents the obsessiveness of house grooming within the deliberate blandness of an institutionally colourless room. Michele Beevors examines female objectification and the kitchen-sink dramas of matrimony with three unnerving latex and fibreglass sculptures. Shelley McConaughy provides a highlight with her hand-knitted straitjacket and kinetic all-purpose domestic labour device, the rolling-pin machine.

 

A Matter of Desire, by Gordon Crook.
A Matter of Desire, by Gordon Crook.
''That's Pep'' (Brett McDowell Gallery)

A different type of group show is under way at Brett McDowell Gallery. The works are by three late 20th-century artists who, though acknowledged among New Zealand's finest, are perhaps less well-known in this part of the country than they should be.

The best-known of the three names is Pat Hanly. A fine colourist, Hanly's art has been seen only intermittently in Dunedin, which is a shame, as its joyful vibrancy is a delight, as can be seen here with the monotype Flower miracle and silkscreen Life goes on. This latter work has been deliberately placed alongside a bright, complementary work, Allegory 3, by Gordon Crook.

Crook, whose work is well-known around Wellington but less so elsewhere, is further represented by three fascinating mixed media works employing tapestry and handmade paper. The brio of these works makes them seem like miniaturised South American rugs, though the tales they depict are largely taken from Maori myth.

Alongside these two artists' work sits that of Eion Stevens, a former Dunedinite who spent much of his life in Christchurch. As with the other two artists, there is a strong modernist sensibility about Stevens' work, represented here by the tongue-in-cheek Mondrian inspiration of Landlord and the monochromatic Shelter, the most introverted work in an otherwise exuberant exhibition.

 

Insight, Steev Peyroux.
Insight, Steev Peyroux.
''Insight'', Steev Peyroux (The Artist's Room)

There has been a slight but significant change in the artistic style of Brighton artist Steev Peyroux.

His works, which continue the artist's long fascination with the often intangible borderline between sea and sky, still present vast, moody vistas. But whereas many of his images still have a smooth, misty quality, there is a move towards a more painterly impressionistic approach to several of the images.

The rich depths of Dream and Impulse highlight Peyroux's earlier style, the grandeur of the clouds dominating the stillness of the waters below. Blackhead is perhaps the epitome of this style, the light pouring down like honey on the quiet depths of the ocean.

In works such as Realisation, however, where the shore is to the fore, the rocks and plants are depicted in short stabs of colour, allowing the immediacy of their presence to show through. There is a life here which breaks through the tranquillity of the seascapes. The dynamic brushwork extends to the sea and sky in most of these works, though in Big Rock the two styles blend to great effect.

The decision of which style is preferable is a purely personal one. My own taste veers towards the gentler style, though I can appreciate the more dynamic approach. Each has its merits, and both show the power of Peyroux's art.

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