Every artist reaches a stage in their development where they need to make a jump, a leap towards greater intensity or greater power that fulfils an obvious potential.
A number of artists are poised on the brink of such a development, notably Pete Wheeler at Whitespace at Crummer Rd until July 6. Already, he has had several exhibitions, full of skulls, tanks and the impact of war. He has shown the ability to paint on a large scale and has plenty of attack in his approach.
In the present show, skulls still predominate but they are matched with diamond patterns that recall a jester's motley. The paint is applied vigorously and, in some paintings, is allowed to run and drip symbolically.
In an impressive, elegiac work called Painting Out of Time, the work is filled by a skull that suggests mortality, and the background comprises runs of paint to suggest tears and the passage of time. The skull is decorated in a variety of colours which are memories added to the past.
A sense of struggle and fight is emphasised by another title, Everytime I show I put my Ass on the Line. The Americanism, "ass" for "arse" suggests a certain timidity, although aggression is obviously intended. The same timidity shows in a big painting called Between Spaces, which is ambiguous when grandeur is needed. It shows a solemn hall in deep perspective leading to the dark but the bright pink colour is at odds with the solemnity. The idea needs more pressure.
This sense of not pushing hard enough also marks the three untitled paintings that show faces isolated in a sea of canvas. These faces are well characterised and have a modern sense of neurosis. A big jump is needed to give these personalities a context. Isolating them in a sea of paper does not do justice to their potential.
At the Lane Gallery are two young artists who mute the achievement of their work by calling it Remnants. Hana Carpenter and Lisa Murphy whose show runs until July 7 have developed styles that consist of oblique traces, signs and indications. Both are reticent.
A typical pair of works by Lisa Murphy is called Isolde and Tristan. The Isolde piece is pale and Tristan is dark. Both are characterised by arrangements of carefully dotted paint which falls into two patterns, positive geometric patterns and trailing random lines. The feeling is a contrast between certainties and irrational acts.
On a larger scale and done with more power in the colour, this concept might powerfully portray the fate of the tragic lovers. There is charm without force and the style sits better on more domestically evocative things like Night Garden, with its sense of moonlight, and Space Garden with its decorative peacock.
Hana Carpenter has command of a variety of techniques. She can do neat vignettes of mountain and fiord landscapes, rubbed and abraded surfaces, and painterly surfaces with torn and ragged edges.
These techniques are brought together in dark, subdued paintings. Throughout, is a sense of contrivance rather than a deep emotional power.
The paintings' quality shows the artist has established a platform of technique which needs more surrender to colour and a driving emotion to make a leap forward.
Artspace in Karangahape Rd is exercising one of its functions by bringing to the fore work by three emerging artists who would find difficulty in finding space at a dealer gallery. They each use the moving image: two video artists and a movie-maker.
Clinton Watkins is showing another of his video loops that show the passing of a vast ship. The loop shown at each end of the long gallery is accompanied by a base continuo of the ship's horn and engines.
The immensity of the great white cruise ship is intensified by the directly confrontational aspect of the camera work. The bow looms up, the levels of decks pass by with their innumerable patterns and no sign of people. Then the stern recedes and, as it goes, emphasises how fatly the ship sits on the water.
The work of Tim van Dammen could not be a greater contrast. From the complexities of the cruise ship we are taken to the intimacy of an artist's lodgings, with a colourful painting against the wall, a poster of a Spanish bull fight, a photograph of a friend, old chairs, a stove and a whistling kettle.
All this is shown on 16 screens, cheek by jowl in a small room, and the image rolls around these screens going from one to another so we are aware of the completeness of the environment, although we only focus on one part at any time.
Nothing much happens. The kettle boils, whistles and is taken off the gas. We are left with an impression of great intimacy and an intensified perception of an environment. This effectively is a still life for modern times.
The work of Nova Paul in the main gallery is a step back in time. A tiny screen shows a park in Auckland with a football field and players training. The special nature of this work is that the colour separations are bad, so the reds and greens are intensified but slightly out of register.
This gives the scene an archaic, documentary quality and emphasises the bright colours of the players' jerseys. It is one idea pushed too long and too hard and not helped by being matched with a complementary work about the Maori history of Auckland delivered in a monotone.
These three artists are skilled with modern technology but their aims are limited to effects. A real jump in imagination is far away.
Only a couple of days remain to see the work of Barbara Cope at Satellite Gallery in St Benedicts St. Her quietly touching black-and-white images, which range from a tortoise-shell comb to Victorian dresses lost in a world of spiky palms, help the viewer to make a jump in time toward poignant experience.