T J McNamara on the arts

T J McNamara is a Herald arts writer

T.J. McNamara: A variety of rich, evocative visions

By T.J. McNamara

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Quiet charm and deft paintings give insight into artists' concerns

Gretchen Albrecht The Fire and the Rose Revisited 2013. Photo / Courtesy the Artist and Two Rooms
Gretchen Albrecht The Fire and the Rose Revisited 2013. Photo / Courtesy the Artist and Two Rooms

The work of four senior artists dominates the scene this week. At Two Rooms Gretchen Albrecht is showing groups of works on rectangular canvas that allows the edges of her well-known tumultuous ovals to be less absolutely defined than in the past.

The two earliest paintings in the oval format are muted works in white and grey. Even the red underpainting that shows through in the heavy bars that are the gate in Shell Threshold appears only intermittently. Aequus (thistledown) has similar contrasts between quiet colour and strong geometric forms.

The recent works are more generous and spectacular and the emotional drive much stronger. The whirling vortex at the centre has softer edges and spreads like a vision into the wide rectangle of the canvas. The familiar energy is still evident in the immediacy of the wide brushwork that sweeps the colour directly into the weave of the canvas.

There are evocations of gardens and flowers in Rosa Splendour in its tightly folded red and orange colours. Even more rich is The Fire and the Rose Revisited, which pulses with the united energy of fire and the rose of love in an image of poetic passion.

The emotional response is varied throughout the show. The richly serene Pastorale is all shades of green touched with yellow alongside the potent blue, violet and red of Belladonna and the elegiac dark grey and blue of Ashes.

The richness and variety of emotional effect make this a memorable exhibition worthy of the artist's reputation.

Upstairs at Two Rooms is Phyto-plasts, photography by Megan Jenkinson, who has always been interested in optical effects that change the surface of the images and expand the photographic instant. Here she has adopted a system widely used by the French painter Yaacov Agam where systematic vertical ridges change the framed image when seen from the left or the right.

The shift in her work is subtle because the subject does not change except in mood, lighting or season. This works beautifully in wind fall where persimmons glow like lanterns and light falls where the change is dawn to dusk.

All the works have a quiet charm and sensitively suggest the mutability of life.

Recently Whitespace saw the launch of a fine book that covered the long and distinguished career of Greer Twiss. The gallery is showing pieces that document the long line of work that began with deftly modelled groups of athletes. These figures and a development that moved through formal arrangements in brightly painted figures and their shadows are well represented, as are examples of these figures as maquettes for larger sculpture never realised except in the iconic fountain on the corner of Karangahape Rd and Symonds St.

Twiss' art has often been concerned with wide political and conservation issues, warning of the dangers of nuclear testing in finely crafted work in lead. His concern for conservation concerns produced many fine sculptures of birds, especially ones emphasising the wide wingspan of albatrosses. This led to a big work near Princes Wharf where the spirit of the albatrosses are supported and elevated by an abstract framework. Recent work is represented by his freely modelled and inventive variations of the Winged Victory concept.

Sculpture is three-dimensional and photographs only give a hint of such work so seeing it in the round is well worthwhile.

In the smaller gallery is a group of drawings by Mary McIntyre whose insight into the female nude is unique. It is titled Your love is better than ice cream. Most of the drawings emphasise the transient beauty of the young. A vein of irony is emphasised by the inclusion of a monumental study of a middle-aged woman. The exactness of these drawings gives insight into the concern for absolute truth in one of the most independent artists we have.

Campbell Patterson is a developing talent so his exhibition at Michael Lett is accordingly a mixture of painting and a pair of video loops. The video fills the gallery with deep groans. The artist has had himself filmed with his face on the concrete floor and uses the resonance to produce these groaning sounds.

The floor is also where his uniformly small paintings are shown. Columns support the roof of the gallery and four paintings are placed on the floor around the sides of each column.

All 16 of them are deft paintings of idiosyncratic things that were both imagined or observed by the artist.

Some are very unusual such as February, 2014, which has an elegantly painted sky between two listings of the days of that month. Others are neat interiors; some are abstractions. Then there is writing on a pale tablet and an interior with a woman in bed and a dog prancing on it. None of these works makes any effort to make a strong statement, more just a quiet, evocative note. The show is called Back in the World and impresses as a series of revelations after waking. The groaning videos are explicable as a reaction to waking.


At the galleries

What: Painting by Gretchen Albrecht; Phyto-plasts by Megan Jenkinson

Where and when: Two Rooms, 16 Putiki St, Newton, to April 26

TJ says: Gretchen Albrecht's paintings show powerful emotional effect and the photographs of Megan Jenkinson use an optical system to suggest the process of change in flowers and fruit.

What: Sculpture and drawings by Greer Twiss; Your love is better than ice cream by Mary McIntyre

Where and when: Whitespace, 12 Crummer Rd, Ponsonby, to April 5

TJ says: A sampling retrospective of Greer Twiss' vast output over the years and a small show of Mary McIntyre's perceptive and highly individual drawings of the female nude.

What: Back in the World by Campbell Patterson

Where and when: Michael Lett Gallery, 2/285 Great North Rd, to April 6

TJ says: The gallery space is filled with groaning from video loops but the accompanying paintings are studied impressions of a variety of subjects.

- NZ Herald

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