Words make big impression

By T.J.McNamara

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Detail form Alberto Garcia-Alvarez, 2016-88.6
Detail form Alberto Garcia-Alvarez, 2016-88.6

What: Freeing the Memory by Marina Abramovic
Where and when: Trish Clark Gallery, 4 Bowen Ave, to October 29
TJ says: A marathon stream of consciousness in a video by the internationally famous performance artist.

Artweek has seen an astonishing amount of work in more than 40 galleries. Amid the crowd of images, big works inevitably stand out. The face of Marina Abramovic, in a video performance projected on to the wall of the Trish Clark Gallery, is the biggest of them all.

Recorded in 1975, and called Freeing the Memory, it is the artist steadily speaking random single words for an hour and a half in a stream of consciousness as they occur to her. She speaks in Serbo-Croat but the English subtitles retain a good deal of the effect of the emotional and intellectual jumps between words as they occur. The oracular effect of how the mind works is fascinating.

Meanwhile, the Tim Melville Gallery is big enough to give space to four exceptionally large canvases by the veteran artist, Alberto Garcia-Alvarez, who has never retired from painting though he has long retired from his decades of teaching at Elam School of Fine Arts.

The works are international in flavour, comparable to American Abstract Expressionist painters such as Mark Rothko. They are loose clouds of sombre colour, though three of the four have a stabilising rectangle sitting at the bottom edge while the fourth, an exceptionally dark work, has a fine dividing white line.

The intruding rectangles give the opportunity to reveal around the edges something of the colours that underlie and contribute to the density of the rest of the paintings. This is particularly notable in 2016-88.6 (the paintings are all titled by numbers) where the ochre colour burns into the dark brown of the rest of the work.

The other works are more fluid. An encroaching darkness may threaten to overwhelm the light. Energy, dimly perceived under the surface as flashes of blue, adds force to another. A variety of blacks interact across a border as the beginnings of light emerge on one side of the divide.

These four big paintings are accompanied by a collection of smaller, more geometrically structured paintings in the adjacent part of the gallery. They make up a sophisticated retrospective collection going back to 1993 and have the elegant simplicity that has always marked the work of Garcia-Alvarez.

Serene Timoteo, Va'ai la'u fuala'au (See My Pretty Flowers).
Serene Timoteo, Va'ai la'u fuala'au (See My Pretty Flowers).

What: A Heaven in a Wild Flower by Meng Hong Li; Limitless, by Sarah Louise Keber; See My Pretty Flower by Serene Timoteo; The Print by Timothy Clarke
Where and when: Studio One, 1 Ponsonby Road, closes today.
TJ says: Three very different cultural styles in lacquer, dripped paint, silk appliqué and lively lino prints of the city make suitably varied viewing for a public gallery.

Number 1 Ponsonby Road is a great address but the old Police Station, now home to Auckland Council's Studio One, a public gallery of three rooms and a corridor, is not the most prominent of galleries around town.

It does good work by giving space to young and unusual artists who might struggle to get a show elsewhere. For Artweek, they've had five artists showing work all entirely different in style and technique.

The most spectacular and vibrant is one big work, part of Serene Timoteo's artistic take on traditional Pacific craft. She has three pieces; the largest is in silk woven into a mat. Its colour, flowers and fringes are a tribute to the artist's grandmother's garden and the way she would sing to her family. It is a lovely and lyrical memorial.

Floral subjects appear again in the tightly composed, intense small panels that have a special colour range by Meng Hong Li and are done in lacquer in a traditional manner. Timothy Clarke is another traditionalist whose medium is the centuries' old technique of woodcut prints though here he probably used lino. He does lively and choppy scenes crowding together bits and pieces of Auckland. They are all instantly recognisable and so is the deft movement of the hand and chisel that makes them.

The exhibition is completed by three works in the nook at the end of the corridor where Sarah Louise Keber shows sculpture. She combines household vessels and enhances them by layered paint that is allowed to drip and run in sculptural patterns. How Keber keeps her colours from mixing is her own secret but is very effective.

Peter Miller, Jeanne D'Arc, Sabina.
Peter Miller, Jeanne D'Arc, Sabina.

What: Presence by Peter Miller
Where and when: NKB Gallery, 455 Mt Eden Rd, Mt Eden Village, to October 18
TJ says: A series of portraits of attractive modern young women whose presence and direct gaze reflect strong characters of the past.

Peter Miller has made a quiet reputation as a painter of still-life; old toys were a memorable part of his subject matter. His paintings showed his skill with colour and his exceptional draughtsmanship but they were generally quite small.

This exhibition, at NKB, of big, more than life-sized portraits, shows the same virtues. They are large enough to rival historical portraits but the subjects are modern young women who look directly out at the viewer. The show is called Presence and they have this in abundance.

Of course, it could be argued the subjects are all too beautiful and the colour just a little too sweet, making the whole show too self-consciously glamorous, but the extraordinary presence of the women and the polished skill of the painting - notably in the hair and the flesh tones - makes this a worthy and unusual part of Artweek.

- NZ Herald

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