T J McNamara on the arts

T J McNamara is a Herald arts writer

TJ McNamara: Building space

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Art work by Gregor Kregar at the Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts in Pakuranga. Photo/ Brett Phibbs
Art work by Gregor Kregar at the Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts in Pakuranga. Photo/ Brett Phibbs

Sculpture needs space and Te Tuhi in Pakuranga provides it in spades for two of our most prominent sculptors. Derrick Cherrie has imposing work both outside and inside the gallery and Gregor Kregar has built a large, complex structure that occupies the foyer.

Cherrie's Landshaft is nearly two storeys high and stands between the gallery and the road near Michael Parekowhai's equally tall colourful tower. Landshaft is built of wood, glass and aluminium joist and resembles an industrial building.

This is not coincidental because the sculpture is about contemporary construction: its methods, spaces and effects. The side of the work that faces the road is made up of large lengths of timber crisply arranged vertically as a slightly curved facade. Behind are two narrow box-like enclosures with glass at each end. The rear of the sculpture has a wall of horizontal timber. The whole is elevated on a frame of galvanised rolled steel joists.

Everything is bolted together so it can be dismantled. Visually the bolts are striking. They hold the precisely milled timber and the steel together and, exposed as they are, the close viewer can feel the pressure bonding the structure together.

To the passing motorist it will simply resemble a small modernist industrial structure, yet its forms are too narrow to have any practical use. It is a thing complete in itself that captures and fixes the character and the anonymous, puritanical nature of the building styles of our time.

The show called Objects and their Discontents is in two parts and the second work takes over Te Tuhi's largest gallery space and is also mounted on a weighty steel frame. It is also about construction but more about building interiors.

The nature of modern access is shown by an isolated steel staircase that is an unfunctional demonstration of cold strength. There are plain walls and tiled walls, closed spaces and open spaces. Fastenings are again important.

The sculpture, like the minimal design it characterises leaves out any sense of emotion. It is large; not monumental or celebratory, but oddly disturbing.

The cool precision of Cherrie's work is in contrast with Gregor Kregar's Dream House Project that celebrates improvisation. The installation is made of scrap timber of all lengths and sizes.

An amazing amount of this timber is roughly nailed together to make a web of strongly architectural forms. The constructions resemble vaulting, usually done in stone.

To see the effect achieved here with random, discarded lengths of old timber is fascinating and wonderfully contradicts and contrasts with the plain surfaces and solid geometry of Cherrie's constructions. Both installations deserve to be seen.

Sculpture, particularly statuary, often has an inscription, usually carved in classical lettering. The sculptor Mary-Louise Brown, who has an exhibition at the Saatchi & Saatchi Gallery, is fascinated by language, particularly the terse aphoristic language often carved. Aucklanders will know her four groups of basalt slabs that function as seats in Lorne St. Both sides of each slab, eight in all, are beautifully carved with single words. The magic is that the words change one letter at a time. Going south, "word" finally modulates into "seed". Going north "deed" becomes "wore". The development of "word" into "seed" suggests growth.

There are no slabs of stone in the show at Saatchi but one is greeted by "if only" in neon at the door. From then on the words are either on leather, canvas or large sheets of paper.

In the small works on leather there is a link between the colour of the background and the lettering. Therefore "full lips" is delicate shades of pink; "keen edge" is in suitably sharp colours. Two big sheets of intensely black paper have black lettering on them so their rubric "be very afraid" and the matching "don't be afraid" are hard to perceive front-on but emerge from the darkness when seen at an angle. The lines of text in "you know how" - with a touch of irony - urge people to take part in art and be up with the avant-garde. The accessibility and resonance of these instant shots of the power of language make it easy to participate.

Also approachable is the work of four sculptors at Artis Gallery in Parnell. It contains the work of two excellent artists who have been off the scene for a while in Marte Szirmay and Richard Mathieson. Both combine simplicity and strength. Both Szirmay in her bronze discs that match earth and sky in Day - Night and Mathieson with his Undulatus which is a folding bronze landscape that contains a lake of water, combine strength with simplicity. Veterans Jim Wheeler and John Edgar show excellent examples of their usual style: clinging, exactly modelled vegetation on rock forms by Wheeler and beautiful stone cut and joined by Edgar.

Particularly effective are two works where, by using thick glass and coring the sides of the joins, Edgar makes the insertions transparent against the light and totally solid from other angles.

At the galleries
What:
Constituent Parts by Derrick Cherrie
Dream House Project by Gregor Kregar
Where and when: Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, 13 Reeves Rd, Pakuranga, to July 29
TJ says: Two prominent sculptors offering completely contrasting work - one precise geometrical with modern materials, the other improvising remarkable structures from discarded old timber.

What: Don't Be Afraid by Mary-Louise Browne
Where and when: Saatchi & Saatchi Gallery, 123-5 The Strand, Parnell, to July 7
TJ says: Mary-Louise Browne makes her sculpture, painting and neons by using words - short aphoristic sayings that evoke magic.

What: Inside Outside: John Edgar, Marte Szirmay, Richard Mathieson, Jim Wheller
Where and when: Artis Gallery, 280 Parnell Rd, Parnell, to July 2
TJ says: Group show of work that ranges mostly monumental in bronze and stone but also finds room for delicate modelling of plant forms.Full Lips by Mary-Louise Browne at the Saatchi & Saatchi Gallery.

- NZ Herald

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