TJ McNamara: At the galleries

By TJ McNamara

Viky Garden: Self-portrait
Viky Garden: Self-portrait

What: Seven by Two: Recent work by Viky Garden and Justin Summerton
Where and when: Warwick Henderson Gallery, Level 1, 255 Broadway, Newmarket, to September 30.
TJ says: Viky Garden has changed her severe line for a freer style but continues
her series self-portraits as a study of the life of women. Justin Summerton concentrates on his sharp views of Cheltenham and Rangitoto.

Galleries a little outside the city centre often show work of unusual interest. The Warwick Henderson Gallery in Newmarket offers an extreme contrast in the work of Viky Garden and Justin Summerton.

Paintings by Garden are rare. She seldom shows her work, perhaps because, throughout her long career, she has concentrated, to an unusual degree, on self-portraits in a variety of moods and settings. These are generally domestic and she sees herself as Everywoman. This time, they are straightforward full-face images against plain backgrounds.

Her severe line and clarity of image in her former work has been transformed into passages of expressionist paint.

The face is set firmly, centred on the shoulders, but the drawing of the features is clouded, particularly about the eyes.

All seven paintings have the same format but each suggests a different transient mood. They are all untitled but given a date, making August 3 a firm character, March 3 bewildered and lost, March 4 sad, June 1 haughty, and so on.

One work, the largest, is outstanding. The face emerges proudly from a passage of light. It stands firmly against a strike of brown, moody colour across the forehead that ends by draining down the canvas. The body is clothed in wild indications of a robe of red painted with impressive dash. Prominent hands add to the effect of something like a swagger portrait.

Justin Summerton's work is much firmer and more careful, though rather hard in manner. He paints landscape and harbour views of the North Shore, usually including Rangitoto.

Two of the paintings are composed as the view from his studio window. On the wall of the room is a work in the manner of Gordon Walters to show he could paint that way if he wanted. But he sticks to bright, clear and accurate realism except in one case; All That You Cant Leave Behind packs his vision and memories ingeniously as a stack of two boxes.

Aroha Gossage: Hauturu
Aroha Gossage: Hauturu

What: waenga by Zena Elliott and Aroha Gossage
Where and when: Artis Gallery, 260 Parnell Road, to September 25
TJ says: Two young artists, one painting careful landscapes in a way that conveys the spirit of the land; the other doing bold images that match, with a political flavour, the design of the past with the technology of modern electronics.

Artis Gallery features work by two young Maori artists who work in completely contrasting ways. Aroha Gossage, sister of the acclaimed painter Star Gossage, is a recent graduate and her work is entirely landscape.

She paints in muted colours in harmonies that are specially her own. These subtle colour combinations dimly suggest the history and spiritual quality of the land. They are the result of a 10-day stay on Little Barrier Island with which, through her hapu, she has spiritual and historical connections.

She paints accurate land and seascapes of the island in muted colour harmonies of considerable originality. They are a vision of the land rather than a description in a way that follows the thinking in her sister's work but in a softer and more detailed way. It is a quietly compelling vision.

The gallery is shared with Zena Elliot whose work is far from soft. Her paintings and masks all have sharp-edged forms and are boldly patterned, often in bright stripes. They contain figures stylised in the way of Maori carvings but sometimes with circles that sit oddly in the patterns. The circles denote truncated limbs and appear powerless despite the strength of the rest of the image. The figures wear headphones and carry cell-phones thus connecting the traditional past with the innovative present. The combined message is clear and loud.

Prue MacDougall: Resting Place
Prue MacDougall: Resting Place

What: The Tender Trap by Prue MacDougall
Where and when: Railway Street Studios, 8 Railway St, Newmarket, to October 4
TJ says: A prolific and very inventive exhibition using a modern version of the old etching process to make surreal images of great complexity with women, birds, intricate leafage with feathers everywhere.

Railway Street Studios shows the highly accomplished and copious printmaking of Prue MacDougall whose intriguing work uses etching processes. Historically, etching involved copper plates and acid to eat into them. This exhibition uses modern polymers on steel backed plates.

The polymer tissues are light sensitive and allow the use of collage and photo-shopped images. Yet they also allow the great virtue of etching in the past by showing every mark made by the artist's hand thus keeping apparent the virtue of skilled drawing.

MacDougall's drawing is excellent, particularly in the fine detail of such things as feathers. Leafage and feathers loom large in the work in pictures of birds bearing women's faces similar to the way such images have been used for mythical or surrealist figures creatures by artists in the past.

The heads used in this manner, as well as many portrait heads, are convincing characterisations with more than a touch of Victorian illustration that gives them a quaintly archaic manner. The frequent use of oval shapes for the prints reinforces this feeling and also gives possibilities for unusual compositions.

The artist's concern with birds and feathers extends to printing some of her images directly on to white seagull feathers. Cages also play a part in the imagery and the etching on a feather that gives the show its title is of a dark female face shut in cage.
The finest and most intricate work is a feat of composition involving a face, flowers and intricate patterns of leaves and flowers as well as a tiny flying acrobatic woman. Called Summer Carnivale it combines skill and a creative imagination in an unusually complex and lively manner. It is the peak of a very distinctive show.

- NZ Herald

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