Using a powerful and effective combination of the old and the new, Paul Dibble makes his show of sculpture at Gow Langsford a procession of fine, monumental sculpture. The exhibition, Bird's Eye View, features the wood pigeon, the now extinct huia, the tui and the fantail.

The old in these works is the way the birds are cast in bronze; a material almost as old as civilisation. This is combined with the rich brown rust colour of modern Corten steel, used here in box sections to make geometrical pillars and circles whose firm abstract qualities frame and support the lovely rhythms of the natural shapes.

View from Above, nearly 3m tall, has a fine huia looking down from the top of a vertical column supported by a perfect circle. Two branches that emerge from the upright reflect the curve of the bird's beak, while the whole work's rhythm is supported by the droop of the tail and the space carved out of the bird's body.

This splendid piece is almost trumped by Soaring, where a huge huia swoops down, its wings and tail making wonderful curves. This is supported by rigid steel but alongside is a branch cast in bronze that contrasts its natural shape with the manufactured geometry. From the branch hang the kowhai flowers so often associated with the bird.

These large works are accompanied by smaller pieces that sometimes incorporate the figures of dancers. These are close to conventional Art Nouveau statuettes but there is real tension in Parallel Worlds, which contrasts human and bird. Additionally, leaves emerge from the Corten steel. They contribute to the rhythms of the work and they have the kind of magic associated with Tannhauser's staff that miraculously sent forth shoots despite the Pope's curse.

Among these small works there is one called A World Above where there is interaction between the bird looking down and the dancer looking up. This makes the work less passive than other pieces in the show.

Yet the passive can be powerful, as in The Conversation, where the extinct huia communes with a pert fantail poised on a skull-like head. Here, the alert survivor interacts with the extinct.

Inspiration, technique, resources and a potent link with the land make this an exhibition not to be missed.

There is strong evocation of the past in the exhibition curiously entitled Scrabble with Janet by Michael Shepherd at Jane Sanders Art, not the least because all the paintings are in a variety of old, battered frames. Shepherd, as is his wont, is harking back to the past. In this case, the past is the career and milieu of poet Janet Frame. Another aspect of the past is that every painting has some material from a bundle of Woman's Weeklys from last century given to the artist.

The paintings are done in oil and acrylic and, although they are based on photographs, their painterly qualities are splendid. This is particularly evident in the finest painting in the show, Genesis, where a figure stands under a dark tree that suggests the workings of the mind while beyond is a sunlit field. The figure has put aside an umbrella with a gesture that suggests abastandoning protection. The application of paint, which includes free spattering, gives a variety of surface that reinforces the meaning of the work. Some images are darkly portentous, such as Inside the Army Huts. By contrast, at least one work, Sill Tits, is amusing with the Freudian allusions of its collage. Oblique references continue in The Gleaners where Frank Sargeson bows down in his garden to plant seeds in the attitude like the painting by Millet. The everyday detail of his spade is prominent in the foreground while, in the background, a visionary light appears through the dark. It is a leap from the ordinary to the world of the imagination.

Like every exhibition by Shepherd it is curious to the point of being odd but exactly matches technique with his subject and atmosphere.

The work of Gareth Price called Suburban Fantasy at Pierre Peeters Gallery is a debut exhibition. There is a strong influence from 20th century surrealists, notably Magritte and Max Ernst, as well as the great interpreter of obsession, Sigmund Freud.

What is special to the artist is the remarkable exactness with which he renders suburban buildings.

They are precisely drawn, dark and moody and suggest they have autobiographical connotations for the painter.

Above one building, against a red sky that adds emotional effect, floats an attractive, naked girl with a bird head. She spreads huge wings to float in a red sky while approached by another bird with twin heads. The house below has a strange presence in the tower of its belvedere.

All of these things and the foliage around the houses are painted with meticulous, painstaking care.

There are times when the birds and the young women are replaced by fish: in one work a delicately painted red snapper, in another an oarfish twists its way out of the sky with a red crest cocked high. The houses, the vegetation, are effective; the bird-headed women a-la-Max Ernst less so. The fish are startling and surprising but lack the dream quality of real surrealism. They are invented rather than visionary. Nevertheless, it all makes a fascinating first show.

The exhibition by Stanley Palmer at the Anna Bibby Gallery is the most recent of a succession of shows that reach back many years. As usual his subject is coastal New Zealand. One large work is done with a new technique of screen print on coarse linen. Other works are done using his familiar technique of bamboo engraving, here supported by lithograph.

The effect is to emphasise his straightforward, honest imagery, which ultimately derives from his painting with its sparse landscape and telling detail such as a bell, a feature of the Pahaoa marae.

This quietly effective show furthers Palmer's special place in our art scene.

At the galleries:
What: Bird's Eye View by Paul Dibble

Where and when: Gow Langsford Gallery, 26 Lorne St, to Oct 30

TJ says: A captivating exhibition of large, confident sculpture devoted to our native birds and our interaction with them.

What: Scrabble with Janet by Michael Shepherd

Where and when: Jane Sanders Art, Level 1, Blacketts Building, cnr Queen-Shortland Sts, to Oct 30

TJ says: Evocative meditations in painting and collage on the life, writing and times of Janet Frame.

What: Suburban Fantasy by Gareth Price

Where and when: Pierre Peeters Gallery, 251 Parnell Rd, to Nov 5

TJ says: Meticulously detailed surrealist paintings where mystery lurks in suburban houses while strange creatures fly in the sky.

What: Stanley Palmer

Where and when: Anna Bibby Gallery, 226 Jervois Rd, to Oct 25

TJ says: Screen prints, prints from bamboo plates and paintings all showing coastal landscapes and harmonised by the special techniques and unifying colour.

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