Stylised approach which stops before the point of abstraction draws in the viewer

Paint, and lots of it, applied thickly and vigorously is the characteristic of the exhibition by Lisa Rayner at Whitespace. A hundred years ago the great French painters Matisse and Derain took a trip to the port of Collioure on the Mediterranean and emancipated colour from the subject, making dashing symphonies of colour and light. They were called "Wild Beasts" in their time, yet the style is still available to be used effectively by a young artist here.

The paintings are of landscape without people. The subjects are trees, not the dark of the bush but groups of trees in a wide grassy pastoral landscape such as the Waikato. They exist in a space between the real and the imagined, and easily strike a chord with the viewer.

The work is done with wide flat strokes for the hills and fields and smaller rhythmic strokes for trees and bushes. The results are emblems of growth that are stylised but stop before the point of abstraction.

It is the colour of these images that gives them their carrying power. A bushy tree or a poplar may have a bright yellow and red side where it is sunlit, yet throw dark green or blue shadows. Good use is made of the shadows as a base for the images, notably in Greenbelt, where they are an intense blue and lead the eye into the painting. Woodlawn is notable for its bright green and Bloom for its sudden reds.

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This is participatory painting where every brushstroke is evident so the viewer can take part in the enjoyment of the colour and the making of the painting. It all makes a very appealing show.

George Baloghy, on the other hand, paints with the infinite care of a miniaturist although most of his paintings are quite large. His exhibition at Artis is called City and all the work shows Auckland streets, buildings and the harbour.

George Baloghy's Gunson and Wood.
George Baloghy's Gunson and Wood.

The manner of painting is typical of the artist's long, idiosyncratic career, much of it devoted to depicting old and new in Auckland. Everything is detailed: houses, chimneys, lampposts, streets, cars, cranes, trees and the multiplicity of windows in tall downtown buildings. Boats, usually straight-stemmed launches, sit quietly on the water. Rangitoto and North Head loom in the background. Most of the paintings have a pair of native birds somewhere.

All these things make for an exact characterisation of the city but often the townscape has been subtly shifted to tighten the composition and intensify the contrasts between streets of houses and trees and tall commercial buildings. Some are ambitious, such as the wide panorama of Hobson Bay from Mt Hobson, one of Auckland's finest views. Victoria to Queen and North Head to the City match it.

In Judges Bay to City, one of the more pastoral of the paintings, things have been altered. The bay is shown as an idyllic setting of calm water, pampas grass and an ageing boat on the beach under the hill crowned with the little St Stephens church. Beyond is the Sky Tower and, against the sky, the bar graph variations of the tall buildings in and around Shortland St.

The past and the present are continually evoked in these works, most notably in Gunson and Wood, a deft depiction, cars and all, of old houses and new office buildings. Although these views have been manipulated and are not exact photographic images, they have a bright intensity of colour and sharpness.

In his career Baloghy has often painted picturesque buildings, as simple as butcher's shops and petrol stations, commonplace but noteworthy. Often they were soon after pulled down and lost forever. So he can be forgiven for including such subjects as the Orakei Boatsheds. They look frail and could soon be gone.

A very different Auckland is the subject of work by Matthew Carter at Nkb Gallery in Mt Eden. His Auckland is concrete and angular. Everything is on an unsettling tilt. He adds semi-abstract paintings of the electronic gear as part of city life.

More radically than Baloghy, he searches for tension. A painting of a besuited skateboarder zipping down a highway that zooms into The Cloud is full of movement. In Step he shows a city where it is perilous to step off the pavement. He also suggests another presence, both historic and spiritual, by incorporating carved figures at odds with the urban environment.

Matthew Carter, Fly Whisk.
Matthew Carter, Fly Whisk.

The paintings are accompanied by a group of quizzical statuettes by Ramon Robertson. Small and deftly modelled, these men confront the world often wrapped in weatherproofed jackets that insulate them from the cold and vicissitudes of life.

At the galleries

What:

Paintings by Lisa Rayner

Where and when:

Whitespace, 12 Crummer Rd, Ponsonby, to June 27

TJ says:

Paintings of emblematic trees in landscape done in vivid colour with vigour in the act of painting.

What: City by George Baloghy
Where and when: Artis Gallery, 280 Parnell Rd, Parnell, to July 5
TJ says: George Baloghy is making compelling, highly detailed views of Auckland manipulated a little to make them visionary of the city past and present.

What: New Work by Matthew Carter and Ramon Robertson
Where and when: Nkb Gallery, 455 Mt Eden Rd, Mt Eden, to June 30
TJ says: Matthew Carter's angular paintings of the city reflect the movement and tensions of the people and the deftly modelled statuettes by Ramon Robertson epitomise the visions and worries of the men who work in it.