What: Chart of the Far North by Stanley Palmer
When and where: Melanie Roger Gallery, 226 Jervois Rd, Herne Bay, to November 12
TJ says: Calm, harmonious images mostly of offshore islands sitting in the blue of sea and sky.

Throughout his long career, Stanley Palmer has been one of the principal interpreters of our landscape with the same honesty as a poem by Denis Glover. Palmer has always had a feeling for the particular character of each hill, beach and island.

In his show at the Melanie Roger Gallery, the paintings are accompanied by quotations from writers concerned with sea and land. The images are of the northern coast and offshore and, as in so much of our painting, the outlook toward the sea reaches to the level horizon. Only in one is there a distant, passing ship. The late Don Binney was another artist whose views were often dominated by the horizon; Palmer's work is not as stylised as Binney's nor (yet) are there any birds, but they both catch the unique rhythms and structure of the rural coastline.

Sometimes a road leads over the hills toward the sea and there are hints of isolated farms but generally this is empty land. The islands bear no structures; what is done well is the way the off-shore islands sit founded on the sea and above all the highly individual colour harmony that holds the paintings together as gently and calmly as the sea that sets the tone.

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The calm of these paintings is not just in the isolated subjects and the colour but also in the careful brushwork that pulls each image into unity. The surface is not agitated in an expressionist manner but close up there are surprising vertical indications of brushwork that blend the image into unity though seen only close up.

Joseph Conrad is quoted as a footnote to one work titled, Above Matauri-Toward Motuharakeke. He speaks of islands, 'Lying about in a great hush where the sea meets the sky in a ring of magic stillness.' It applies very aptly to these mature, masterly paintings.

Terry Stringer, Model with Sculptor's Hands.
Terry Stringer, Model with Sculptor's Hands.

What: Model with Sculptor's Hands by Terry Stringer
Where and when: Artis Gallery, 280 Parnell Road, to November 12
TJ says: Traditional bronze statuettes and sculpture charged with thoughtful grace.

For many years now, Terry Stringer has been the go-to sculptor for distinguished public statues, trophies, medallions and memorials and his work, mostly cast in bronze, is consistently successful. This graceful and elegant consistency is the mark of his show at Artis Gallery.

One of the works, Prestidigitation, which refers to conjuring and wizardry, is also indicated in the title of the show, Model with the Sculptor's Hands. Each sculpture contains two images: an expressive head and the fingers of Stringer's hands, both moulded together.

This combination of several images in one work has become something of his trademark. His The World Grasped, in Newmarket, contains four images within one substantial bronze pillar.

At Artis, the works are mostly statuettes although That Certain Smile, which typifies the tone and charm of the show, is shown by the original marquette and a large version, nearly three metres high, that stands outside the gallery.

The smaller works are generally the heads of women or boys and though the hand remains natural, the face is often cut with sharp cubist angles to add energy to the sculptural form.

These small works are both inventive and delightful; the two versions of the McCahon Triptych are rather more ambitious sculptures. The hand becomes three separate fingers; on the foremost one are the nose and stern mouth of the artist while the two fingers further back contain his deep, thoughtful eyes. The whole becomes a face only when seen directly from the front. Yet, especially in its largest form, the division into three parts reads as more eccentric than monumental despite the size of the fingers.

Another work, Memory Mounument, has a similar open form. Both are stretching the original idea and not so immediately attractive beside the mature accomplishment of the figures that are one curving, svelte shape.

Detail from I AM PRIEST by Paul Jackson.
Detail from I AM PRIEST by Paul Jackson.

What: Painting by Paul Jackson
Where and when: Orexart, 1/15 Putiki St, Arch Hill, to November 12
TJ says: Virtuoso painting of imagined portraits of faces with moko but representing very powerfully changes of tradition in a variety of cultures.

Paul Jackson shows great accomplishment as a draughtsman and painter. His portraits are realistic in detail and, as a whole the subjects are the work of a rich imagination. In a portrait such as A Man in a Hat, the texture of the stylish felt hat, the materials of the fine suit and the immaculate shirt are exact fine painting. The skill extends to the character of the face with its full-face moko, which in some parts, like traditional moko, is etched deep in the skin.

In other areas of the face, it becomes pale and luminous and the patterns are not traditional. This strongly suggests something fading and passing. Throughout the show, the telling contrast between clothing, tattoo and the character of the portraits is impressive. It makes consistent statements about mixed traditions and conflicts of attitude and history with touching melancholy.

I AM PRIEST, with a flash of white collar, and Harlequin, a woman with traditional moko and her hair adorned with a comb and feathers, are particularly strong. The woman holds a Japanese mask on which perches a tui with its bright ruff. She looks proud but not confident, splendid but troubled.

It is a strong part of an exhibition of virtuoso painting and serious thought.