Art seen: A series of floating islands

'The Parasite', by Markus Hofko.
'The Parasite', by Markus Hofko.
James Dignan takes a look at the latest exhibitions around Dunedin.

"Future Girl/Tales from the Interior" by Anya Sinclair, Alan Ibell. (Blue Oyster Gallery)

A room of the Blue Oyster Gallery has been turned into a seeming ice cave, with Anya Sinclair's abstract evocation of cyberspace.

In this space we wander past white, glistening stalagmites, through a thin mist.

The work is modelled on a virtual environment rendered by a programmed avatar, and has been transformed into a three-dimensional space by the artist.

We become like computer simulations in this sterile environment, passing unsteady shapes which loom from the mist and which may be hiding enemies from a role-playing shoot-'em-up.

The work leaves those wandering through it feeling as if caught between real and virtual worlds.

Beyond this eerie space is a series of surreal monochromatic paintings by Alan Ibell.

In these works, isolated and disconnected human figures inhabit a bleak landscape which hovers on the boundary between waking and dreaming, living and dead.

The simple yet impressive paintings attempt to reach the viewer's own subconscious, yet - as everyone's dreamscapes are different - this cannot been totally achieved.

In works such as The egg eaters: Etiquette we see scenes from narratives whose stories are inexplicable yet evocative.

The works remain poignant and intriguing.

"Islands: `You and me - a second and a lifetime' ", Markus Hofko (Blue Oyster Gallery)

In the Blue Oyster's lower gallery, Markus Hofko presents a series of floating islands, reminiscent of Roger Dean's famous 1970s album cover artworks.

Each of these suspended sculptures depicts a whimsical yet thought-provoking scene, with miniature people exploring the limits of their tiny worlds.

The colour-coded works depict intricate, humorous tableaux which effectively skewer the human condition.

In some, the tiny figures appear aware that they are stranded in space.

In others, they go about their daily rituals seemingly oblivious to their isolation.

In one scene, a workman stands on several huge pipes which, on walking around the tableau, are revealed to be three enormous sticks of gelignite.

In another, a seeming paradise has been attained, with naked figures wading through white fur/foam surrounding a gleaming shape which could be shrine or spaceship.

The works are at their most poignant when dealing with the subjects of conservation and the destruction of the environment.

By making it clear that the figures are afloat on tiny self-contained worlds, their actions often seem comically stupid, similar to the image of someone sawing through a branch on which they are sitting.

The analogy to our own situation, on a larger but similar rock in space, is not lost, however.

"Seven artists" (The Artist's Room)

Michael Tuffery is perhaps the best known of this year's Artist's Room "seven artists", and has provided a striking series of stencilled works based on stamp designs.

Alongside these works, Alannah Brown depicts introduced animal pests against wallpaper in a style reminiscent of Victorian portraiture.

In both cases, the art's impact is through the clash of worlds.

For Tuffery, it is the blending of cultures; for Brown, it is the clash of good settler intentions and the impact that their introduced species now have.

Claire Beynon has depicted mundane items such as plumb-bobs and spools of cord against moody, abstract backdrops.

The symbols of the surveyor's rigorous delineation of the real sit in deliberate contrast to the washes of background.

Nearby, Ro Bradshaw creates her own patterned world, with mosaic-like grids of colour and pattern built up from found objects and recycled materials.

Sam Foley needs little introduction.

His excellent depictions of bush walks glow with a light which seems to emanate from within the canvas.

Sharon Singer, meanwhile, depicts a surreal internal landscape, its engrossing, unnerving dream stage-sets populated by actors involved in arcane productions.

Last but not least are several exceptional paintings by Greg Lewis.

These works capture their subjects - mainly people at work - in a way that is simultaneously photographic and painterly, creating startling slices of life that linger in the mind.


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