What: Gamut by Helen Calder
Where and when: Trish Clark Gallery, 1 Bowen Ave, to December 2
Tj says: A spectacular display of suspended thick skins of intense colour in a unique use of the elastic qualities of enamel paint.

Helen Calder uses enamel paint in a special way. Quantities of a single colour are puddlled on a non-porous surface and left to dry. When completely dry, they form a flexible skin like a very colourful hide.

In her earlier shows, these skins were spread on a wire flat on a wall where they looked like the skin of some exotic animal. Lately the skins have got larger and here, they are hung from the ceiling in a loop of cable. The cable is black and long lengths of it writhe on the floor in counterpoint to the hanging forms. In another lesser version of her work, skins of primary colours are stacked on top of tall steel stool-like fixtures. There they are titled according to the colour they monumentalise. As Red As, is typical.

The dozen skins hanging in a spiral cluster from the ceiling in the main room are equally dependent on plain colour but have names such as Tyrant, Hero, Adventurer, Lover and so on, but their form is undifferentiated and identifying which is which rather depends on the viewer's emotive response to colour.

Advertisement

Behind the names, there is mystical colour theory based on the theories of the great poet and philosopher Goethe on how colour is perceived: red and orange are noble, blue is common and so on.

The cluster of coloured skins is impressive in itself and that may be considered sufficient. Yet surely some variation in shape - cloaks or hides or some stronger suggestion of situation -would add an imaginative dimension beyond the simple emotional response to pure colour.

Virginia Leonard, 'Trust me, he said, you'll get used to the look', clay, glaze, resin, nails and concrete
Virginia Leonard, 'Trust me, he said, you'll get used to the look', clay, glaze, resin, nails and concrete

What: HANDBUILT: Made in Clay by various artists curated by Denis O'Connor; Leanings by Lauren Winstone
Where and when: Two Rooms, 16 Putiki St, Arch Hill, to November 26
TJ says: The desperate struggles of the vigorous craft movement in pottery last century to be different from commercial work is recalled and its continuing influence shown along with ceramic sculpture that keeps a shadow of functionality.

The heady days of last century's pottery movement in New Zealand are evoked in an entertaining exhibition, HANDBUILT made in Clay, curated by Denis O'Connor at Two Rooms Gallery.

In the 1960s and 70s, the surge in the quality of art here was paralleled by vigorous growth in the number of studio potters. Pioneering galleries ran exhibitions of pottery alongside shows by painters and sculptors.

The challenge for the potters was to produce work with the uniqueness of a work of art; that was useful and remained true to the nature of the ceramic material. To show skill in handling the clay, without pushing comparisons to what was found in commercial products, was another challenge.

Most potters stuck to the concept that craft pottery should retain the nature of a vessel and the utility of a vase or plate. Outstanding potters, such as Len Castle and Barry Brickell, kept this hint of usage. Brickell maintained a ceramic was useful just by looking beautiful on a shelf though his own work was often heavy and unpolished.

Others abandoned all thought of practicality and concentrated on creating unique shapes splashed with unusual glazes. Part of the skill was to make shapes, however inventive, that would survive firing.

Three lively radical variations on the teapot shape, dating from 1983 by Peter Hawkesby, are among the most intriguing pieces in HANDBUILT. Isobel Thom continues - in a severely angular way - the same concept of teapots and cups as unique art objects in her three tea sets done as recently as 2014.

Tanja Nola makes defiant extremes of the bowl shape, typically Kilnbreaker a work that contains earthenware, stone ware, oxide, glaze, pigment glass, metals and shards. It is paralleled by a work tellingly called, 'Trust me, he said, you'll get used to the look,' done recently by Virginia Leonard.

Displayed in museum-like vitrines, the ceramics in this show are simultaneously partly historical and challenging, fascinating and, at times, deplorable. Nevertheless, it is a tribute to the persistent effort to break new ground in ceramics.

A related show, Leanings by Lauren Winstone, is upstairs at Two Rooms. Utility is not her concern; few of her pieces would hold anything. She is really a sculptor working in ceramic and staying true to her material.

Her turned work, with its subdued brown glazes, is skilfully made. Each complete piece has fragmentary pieces of the same style attached to the turned shape to deny their use; some container-like works even have no bottom.

Yet the strength of the shapes and glazes gives the varied shapes a sensuous appeal and works particularly well when a soft small bowl has a precise semi-circular loop leaping out of it.

What: The View from Here by Simon McIntyre
Where and when: Tim Melville Gallery, 4 Winchester St, Newton, to November 19
TJ says: Inventive abstraction based on buildings, windows and walls and filled with joyful combinations of appealing, lyrical colour.

The View from Here, by Simon McIntyre, is a sunny, show with some paintings much larger and more complex than his work of the past few years. From the time of his early paintings of sunlight and the rhythmic shapes of yachts, McIntyre has always been interested in light. More recent painting melded into works using the patterns of light in windows at night or reflected off buildings.

The paintings in this show continue to be abstract but have a return to bright sunlight as their essence. The light plays across walls and patterned objects and often the surface is layered. The effect is lyrical notably in chimes of blue in Flagged.