Characteristics of McCahon skilfully reinterpreted

Daniel Malone

, whose presentation

I & I

is at the Hopkinson Mossman gallery, has had a career that has included a variety of installations here and lately in Europe and Australia.

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Now located in Warsaw, he has returned temporarily as artist-in residence at McCahon House in Titirangi.

The show filters McCahon's practice through the web of Malone's own creative and intellectual stance.

There is the expectation that the viewer will bring pre-knowledge of images by McCahon. The first painting, called And per se And, is a large black, white and grey unstretched canvas painted in the older artist's manner. McCahon used numbers in his work, often 1 to 14, making each number a symbol of a mood on a journey and also evoking the Stations of the Cross. Malone's big painting is a McCahon defused. It looks like a McCahon but the old order no longer applies.

Others are directly biographical. Arhythmia is a collage of dozens of orange heart pill packets and suggests a long illness. Alpha and Omega owes much to The Care of Small Birds, created in 1975 by McCahon, that includes necklaces like rosaries in the sky as a symbol that the birds are treasure. Malone's work includes two necklaces, one imitating McCahon but done in burnt cork, and another in amber from Poland, making a personal link. Then there is a reference to the death of the admired painter in the lettering he often used, and a tomb closed by a circular stone similar to McCahon's painting of The Three Maries at the Tomb. At the bottom of the painting shapes are taken from McCahon's images of kauri.

These big paintings are preceded in the small gallery by robes hung on Tau crosses which suggest martyrs' robes and painters' working gear. A reworking of a tiny painting in McCahon's characteristic lettering of the inscription INRI affixed to Christ's Cross is an allusion to the difficulties the painter had in gaining acceptance of his work. The show is a perceptive response to the stimulation of working in the master's environment and stays true to both personalities involved. It is not a simple homage. It is a stimulating modernist reinterpretation with a certain wry humour.

The exhibition of new works at Gow Langsford by the Spanish artist Antonio Murado, who lives in New York, is for the most part flowers. But it is not ultimately the flowers that matter. The parallel subject is the nature of paint and painting.

Most of the paintings are untitled and the flowers are not readily identifiable.

Each petal is a delicate yet positive spread of colour, apparently achieved by manipulating paint with fingers or the heel of the hand and grouped around a centre of a separate colour. They are supported on pale green stems. Several of the paintings are just the stems, making pale patterns against a background. An exception is a prominent white stem which is a drag of thick paint that conveys the physical action of its making.

The atmospheric backgrounds are usually several layers of paint scrubbed back so the under layers are revealed and the movement of the hand of the artist can be discerned.

Sometimes the flowers float unsupported against these backgrounds that are typically shaded green with often arbitrary white areas. Single paintings might be better seen in isolation but collectively the effect of both the action painting and the colour makes this an attractive exhibition.

The images of the work of Kenneth Merrick at Whitespace are intricate weavings of rhythmic line on unprimed canvas. Only the early works have colour. The large 4th Eversion is brown. An image of journeying, it contains four figures, haloed, helmeted, masked and capped, advancing across the canvas and some emblematic images such as a fish, a trowel and a scarab.

The rest of the paintings are done in black ink-like paint with line and shaded areas between the lines. They are intricate yet symmetrical about a central axis, which makes them much more icon-like. The figures balanced within them have the defined muscles of anatomical figures. The general impression is of symbols of cult images that evoke Javanese patterns modified with a strong feeling of Art Nouveau.

The patterns are quite severe and the tall figures suggest ritual and guardians protecting a central figure of power. V has four figures flanking a sage in the middle. More remarkably, Battern Recognition has a central figure upside down with crouching, veiled figures in the foreground and two tall guardians above them. The figures have a sharp-edged, intimidating geometry. There is a feeling that Merrick has evolved a process and manner and is working with it in an effective way to make mystical images that allow the possibility for even greater intensity of mood.

At the galleries

What:

I & I by Daniel Malone

Where and when:

Hopkinson Mossman, 19 Putiki St, Newton, to February 28

TJ says:

The artist's stay at McCahon House has proved a fertile source for works that reinterpret the older artist's thought and images for the present day.

What: New Works by Antonio Murado
Where and when: Gow Langsford Gallery, 26 Lorne St, to February 28
TJ says: An attractive exhibition by an artist from New York where the subject of flowers are a vehicle for energetic action painting.

What: Loops & Lines by Kenneth Merrick
Where and when: Whitespace, 12 Crummer Rd, Ponsonby, to February 14
TJ says: Closely patterned figures as guardians of totem gods haunt a world of vibrant geometric patterns in densely worked paintings.