Good artists all show a degree of skill in their work but different styles require different skills. At the Sue Crockford Gallery until August 18, the works of veteran abstract artists Milan Mrkusich and John Nixon are concerned with skills of manipulating surface and colour.
Mrkusich's paintings are fields of colour. Three Areas is a beguiling combination of pale creamy colour and brown. The darker brown area emerges from the light colour on either side. The result is harmonious and charming.
More powerful and tense are the paintings Two Areas, where two strong but related colours - yellow and orange or purple and red - are opposed.
The problem is to get depth and intensity into these colours without making the surface shiny.
Mrkusich achieves this by giving the surface a delicate texture, scarcely perceptible until you are close, and by revealing hints of underpainting that emerge like inner fires.
Such paintings were startling when they were done in 1981, but now emerge as good examples of mainstream minimalist art.
Such work needs to be immaculate. An early monochrome in indigo, divided into four areas, loses effect because one of the three divisions leaks light from the back.
The surfaces of Nixon's works are largely determined by the enamel paint he uses. They rely on play with colour for their effects, which gain vitality by the advance and recession of their bright rectangles. The manipulation is skilfully done. The works are small, neat and effective.
A show, also of abstract painting, by Simon Morris at Roger Williams Contemporary until August 16 relies on one skill: to paint a single, perfectly even, broad line that takes the viewer on a journey around the canvas.
The lines are in standard colours, Naples Yellow and Raw Sienna, but mostly in plain orange that is slightly modified when the thick line turns a corner on the linen canvas.
The way to follow these paintings is to take an end and allow your eye to travel along its symmetrical, patterned loops and bends. Such a journey is a severe, unemotional trip and is most interesting when done on a large scale.
The rest of the exhibition is laid out on an exact but invisible grid. The gaps between the black bars are like silences in music; they give tension to what comes before and after. There is a charge across the space.
The big abstractions by Julia Morrison that grace the walls of Auckland's hardest-to-find gallery, Two Rooms, at 16 Putiki St, Newton, also predominantly use line, but intricately.
Throughout her distinguished career she has never been afraid to tackle works on a large scale and integrate them into an installation. In this case, the works are linked by parallel lines inscribed all around the walls of the gallery. The whole is called Gargantua's Petticoat after the giant in Rabelais' robust satirical work.
Petticoat suggests weaving and looping and stitching, and the complex lines follow the patterns of these activities. Some New Zealand references are added, particularly the koru form, yet each piece is different.
Purler adds three large needles to its patterns.
Oolala is an hourglass corset shape given a dynamic spin by a winding black line. Goog is wrapped bobbins that stand tall as statues. And so on around the nine substantial works, sometimes with the addition of glitter as decoration.
The movement of the lines is done with great skill. It is precise, intricate, full of invention and thrust. The colour generally is cold with only one work, Lola, that has an attractive eggshell colour breaking the strictness of line.
This fashion parade culminates in RoCoco which swoops from tangle to precision with the strong movement that characterises this impressive show.
The most obvious skill an artist can show is the ability to draw the outward appearance of things. Such draughtsmanship is at the core of Neil Driver's work at the Soca Gallery until August 9.
He can draw and paint the intricate detail of a cane chair as convincingly as he can paint the shine on the black surface of a grand piano or a beach landscape filled with sunlight.
His skills are used to make images of the New Zealand dream, particularly the dream of a lovely colonial house with wooden floors, isolated near the sea or looking over a wide landscape of lonely hills.
His paintings have no people in them but their presence is hinted at obliquely. This absence gives his world of sunlight outside and shadows indoors an individual, dreamlike, surreal quality.
His images of chairs, verandas, windows and fireplaces are exactly conveyed, but the emotion lies in the places and things rather than in the exactness of the painting.