At the Galleries: TJ McNamara reviews the latest art gallery shows

By T.J. McNamara, T.J.McNamara

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Dick Frizzell, Figure with Pool
Dick Frizzell, Figure with Pool

What: Escape from Salvation Part III by Dick Frizzell; Dialogue by Lee Ufan
Where and when: Gow Langsford Gallery, 26 Lorne St (Frizzell) and cnr. Kitchener and Wellesley Sts (Lee Ufan) to November 19
TJ says: The two parts of the Gow Langsford Gallery offer extremes of wild, rhetorical and witty painting, some of essentially New Zealand subjects and isolated, gestural, extremely austere aiming at universal thought.

Painting is an art form that's a bit out of fashion these days but it still has extraordinary potential. Two separate exhibitions, at the twin Gow Langsford Galleries, show extremes of the spectrum and the possibilities of paint.

There was a time when viewers might have run screaming out of one and knelt in front of the other. Which one? It could have been either but in these days of informed and responsive viewers, they tend to scratch their chins, ponder a little and placidly accept both.

At the Lorne Street branch, Escape from Salvation: The Dick Frizzell Group Show demonstrates that Frizzell can paint anything in any manner. He even includes a Swiss landscape, The Waterwheel Dream, done in an academic manner with all the Romantic trappings: a zigzag of water rushing from the millrace, a lonely light in the house, smoke from the chimney and pines in the background. By contrast there are two large abstractions, with Southern Abstraction the most notable.

Overall, there is a sense of jokiness, which has always been an aspect of Frizzell's art. The two panels of the comic-book style, Killer Cowboys, are set with the shooter on one side of the gallery and the writhing victim on the other. One was done in 1984; the other this year.

There are paintings that are the outcome of plays on words. Vanity Vanity has nothing to do with preacher but is two very commonplace vanity cabinets placed together. The irreverence continues with a muscular, Michelangelesque account of Superman labelled, God.

Frizzell's clever eye and searching brush fixes on the New Zealand scene as all good painters here should. Menu is a series of paintings of crudely handwritten fish and chip signs you might see anywhere in a small town and a variety of rural advertisements for horse manure combined on one work is a lesson in painting and linguistics.

If you add to all these some splendidly painted floral still life like, Geraniums on a Window Sill, you have an exhibition that is uniquely, exuberantly, uncritically Frizzell.

Lee Ufan has four paintings in Gow Langsford's Kitchener Street branch. Korean in origin, Japanese in thinking, international and acclaimed in Europe and America, his works are held in more than 50 public galleries worldwide.

Three of the paintings, all called Dialogue, carry isolated gestural forms in watercolour. They are not in any sense representational but rather forms for meditation. The motifs are one colour, clearly spread in a single gesture so that it shifts gradually from intense to almost transparent. One work has two such shapes; one a vivid orange and the other blue.

The other two Dialogue paintings have a single gestural shape, isolated in the centre a wide space of white. One is brown; the other blue on a large canvas. The fourth painting, Correspondence, is the most austere of all. Its two shapes are finely powdered stone mixed with just enough oil to make them spread. They are not shaded.

They are all objects for meditation and contemplation on existence and transience. The biggest of them is very beautiful. Where the Frizzell paintings evoke energy, these evoke silence.

Peter Madden, One lives in the hope of becoming a memory.
Peter Madden, One lives in the hope of becoming a memory.

What: The Heart is an Infinity of Massive Chains, chaining Little Handfuls of Air by Peter Madden
Where and when: Ivan Anthony Gallery, 1/312 Karangahape Rd, to November 12
TJ says: Peter Madden creates a world of his own where masses of sparkling detail fly clear of the surface in lively thematic clusters.

On Karangahape Rd, two galleries also show strongly contrasting work by prominent artists. One has work of the utmost delicacy; the other a strong statement is made in neon tubing.

Peter Madden's work is an extension of his established and much-admired manner. In the past, most of his work was made up of masses of tiny images cut with amazing precision from high quality magazines. These images, thematically linked, were mounted on pins to make them stand clear of the background. The effect was dazzling; the size and complexity of the results fascinating.

In The Heart is an Infinity of Massive Chains the chains are ones of thought and experience represented and implied by the richness and massing of detail. They form the emotions of the heart. The thousands of images in the works are not colour, come generally from photographs and remind us we generally dream in black and white.

These assemblies have a new luminosity because they are mounted on a black background and framed in black. Furthermore, in the lower part of the works, some clustered cut-out forms have been treated with an intense sooty black to give both mystery and weight.

Peter Madden's assemblages have always been extraordinary but these works have a different kind of intensity. The major works are shown with other images, also in black and white but often small and paradoxically of expressive simplicity.

Cerith Wyn Evans, Things are conspicuous in their absence.
Cerith Wyn Evans, Things are conspicuous in their absence.

What: flare/shine by Cerith Wyn Evans
Where and when: Michael Lett Gallery, 312 Karangahape Rd, to November 26
TJ says: Notable Welsh artist returns to the Michael Lett gallery with a large, philosophical statement in neon and a series of stylish multi-imaged photographs.

The nearby Michael Lett Gallery is dominated by a single sculpture by prominent Welsh artist, Cerith Wyn Evans. It is a long and narrow work in white neon and hangs from the ceiling to dominate the gallery. Its straightforward message is forthright and its weight and significance comes from its simplicity and clarity. It is accompanied by fine black and white photographs linking celebrity, light and the transparency of fine glassware.

- NZ Herald

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